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Lawyers for indicted Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) are uneasy over the prospect of a government witness with a background that includes five terms as a U.S. congressman and a stint as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In a motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia last week, Jefferson’s lawyers asked Senior Judge T.S. Ellis III to jettison Abner Mikva from the government’s witness list. Mikva represented Illinois’ 1st and 2nd districts in the House for 10 years before being appointed to the D.C. Circuit in 1979. He was chief judge from 1991 until his retirement in 1994. Prosecutors wrote in a notice to the court last month that Mikva, now senior director at the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago, would testify “as an expert concerning a general description of the activities of a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives.” Robert Trout, Jefferson’s attorney, argued that prosecutors are trying to throw the weight of a former federal appeals judge, rather than a congressman, behind the government’s legal arguments. “It is inappropriate for the DOJ and its experts to propose to introduce another �judge’ into the courtroom,” Trout, of Trout Cacheris, wrote in the Dec. 11 motion. He also harangued Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Lytle and Rebecca Bellows for continually referring to Mikva as “judge” in the notice. “This unnecessary emphasis reveals the government’s true intentions in proffering the witness, and the testimony should be excluded.”The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia declined to comment. Mikva could not be reached.
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected].

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