Finally, the D.C. Madam Heads to Court

The D.C. Madam case has come full circle now that a judge has paired her with a lawyer she had previously fired and set a court date.

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The alleged D.C. Madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey has had her share of trouble keeping a lawyer. But now a judge has stuck her back with a lawyer she fired from her case last year, and the case is finally headed to court. Palfrey, accused of running a high-end prostitution ring inside the District, made headlines when she vowed to expose all the high-level Washington figures who had used her escort service, which she maintains was perfectly legal. A top State Department official, Randall Tobias, resigned when she said he'd been a client. Palfrey's tactics were made all the more dramatic by her civil defense lawyer, Montgomery Blair Sibley, a solo practitioner with a penchant for wearing kilts (sometimes inside the courtroom) and suing everyone who gets in his way — including the Supreme Court. Disagreements over legal strategy led Palfrey to fire her first criminal defense attorney, A. J. Kramer, head of D.C.'s Federal Public Defender. Though she wanted Sibley to represent her, the judge was against appointing anyone without a criminal defense background, which Sibley lacked. Instead, the judge turned to Preston Burton, a former federal prosecutor who has had experience with women as part of the defense team for Monica Lewinsky. But the Palfrey-Burton match did not last long —because of similar disagreements about legal strategy. Instead, Palfrey decided to handle the case on her own, though she still turned to Sibley for advice. That partnership began to falter early this year when Palfrey dropped Sibley, too. Though she has represented herself, Judge James Robertson yesterday persuaded her to take a court-appointed lawyer once again. The judge's choice: Burton. Burton tells our Emma Schwartz that he's looking forward to trial in April but won't say why his client agreed to hire someone she once fired. Still, one difference is clear: Sibley is no longer in the picture.