After a much publicized lawsuit kicked off with a press conference at their Washington headquarters over a year ago, conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch has dropped Winsome Packer as a client against Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL).
On March 7, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of Packer, a congressional staffer, against Hastings.
However, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton recently confirmed the group was no longer representing Packer in an interview. Fitton cited “irreconcilable differences” with Packer as the reason. Fitton did not speak in detail referencing attorney client confidentiality.
Back in March 2011, Judicial Watch’s Fitton and senior counsel Jim Peterson and their client Winsome Packer held a press conference to announce the lawsuit against Hastings – on the day they filed it.
“What happened to me was no secret, I was let down by the commission and the Congress,” Packer, an employee at Congress’ Helsinki Commission, claimed at the news conference.
In February 2010, Packer self-published a novel featuring a story that opens with the murder of a member of Congress and involves issues of sexual harassment.
Packer claimed in the suit that Hastings sexually harassed her from January 2008 through February 19, 2010 according to the lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on March 7, 2011.
But on February 14, 2012, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein dismissed Packer’s claims. The judge ruled Packer would have to direct her lawsuit to her employer, the Helsinki Commission and not Hastings himself. But Judicial Watch continued to pursue Hastings.
Packer remains a staff member on the Helsinki Commission.
“Our client will still get her day in court,” Judicial Watch attorney Peterson said after Judge Rothstein’s ruling. “It’s in no way a defeat,” he added.
Now Judicial Watch has ceased representing Packer. It’s unknown if Packer will continue her suit without Judicial Watch’s legal help. Attempts to contact Packer failed on Monday.
“As I have said repeatedly, this whole thing is ridiculous, bizarre, frivolous, and has wasted — and is still wasting — a whole lot of folks’ time and money,” Rep. Hastings said after the February ruling in his favor.
Hastings has always strongly maintained his innocence from the first time Packer’s lawsuit became the subject of media attention. At the time the suit was originally filed in March 2011, Hastings said, “I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me. When all the facts are known in this case, the prevailing sentiment will be, ‘How bizarre! I will win this lawsuit, that is a certainty. In a race with a lie, the truth always wins,” and “I have never sexually harassed anyone.”
Their suit with Packer represents the fourth time in five years Judicial Watch has focused on Congressman Hastings. In 2007, Judicial Watch sued Hastings on a due process related matter. The charge was dismissed.
In 2011, Judicial Watch also called for an ethics investigation on Hastings regarding per diems and nepotism. House Ethics looked in to the allegations but decided against a full investigation saying they found no violations. House Ethics has announced no plans to investigate Ethics regarding nepotism.
In March 2012, Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman claimed President Obama wasn’t eligible to be on the ballot in Florida and questioned if the President was a “natural born citizen.”
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Chief Congressional Correspondent, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus. She is heard every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WPFW every Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Washington DC. You can e-mail her at LBurke007@gmail.com follow her on twitter at @crewof42.