The federal judge overseeing Hunter Biden’s federal criminal case on Friday ordered attorneys to raise issues with her chambers, not the court clerk, after bizarre accusations of impersonation.
U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika earlier in the week threatened sanctions, accusing an employee at a law firm representing Biden of apparently misrepresenting their identity to the clerk’s office during a phone call.
Biden’s legal team has insisted it is all a misunderstanding. The employee submitted under penalty of perjury that they did not deceive anyone, suggesting that the clerk’s office perhaps instead made a mistake.
Noreika, a Trump appointee, ordered on Friday that “any issues or inquiries” in the case “shall be brought to my attention and not to the Clerk’s Office.”
“The Clerk’s Office for this Court is staffed by many hardworking and dedicated employees,” she wrote. “They are often the public face of this Court and must address many different, and often difficult, issues on any given day. Their jobs are not always easy, but they do these jobs well. They have earned my trust and my respect. I will not tolerate or countenance them being ill-used, disrespected or lied to.”
The unusual developments arose out of a last-minute attempt by a House committee chair to block Biden’s plea agreement ahead of a Wednesday hearing.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-Mo.) filed documents urging the judge to consider recent testimony to Congress by IRS whistleblowers, who alleged Biden received preferential treatment, before accepting the deal.
Noreika ultimately delayed approval of Biden’s plea deal at the hearing, a sudden twist that saw the judge questioning the agreement on other grounds.
Biden’s legal team had accused Smith of including private social security and grand jury information in the document, which was filed publicly. An employee at a firm representing Biden who is not a practicing attorney called the clerk’s office seeking to have the document removed, according to court filings.
Hours later, the judge accused the employee of pretending to call from Smith’s law firm. The employee, under penalty of perjury, said she had identified herself and suggested the mistaken perception possibly occurred when the request was passed along to another court employee.
The judge’s order on Friday also took aim at Smith’s attorney for posting publicly an email from the clerk’s office supporting the impersonation accusations. The email was later refiled with redactions, according to the docket.
“[C]ounsel for the House Ways and Means Committee needlessly included on the public docket an email from a Clerk’s Office staff member that contained her personal contact information,” Noreika wrote.