|NMU||WASHINGTON, D.C.||Freedom of Information||Mar 7, 2002|
Court grants request for release of Energy Task Force papers
- A federal judge gave seven agencies until March 25 to start handing over documents from Vice President Dick Cheney’s task force on energy policy to a public-interest group.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C. on March 5 ordered several federal agencies involved with the Energy Task Force to turn over all related documents to a legal watch dog group.
A federal lawsuit was brought by Judicial Watch in order to compel the seven agencies involved with Vice President Dick Cheney’s task force to comply with the group’s Freedom of Information Act requests.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman gave the agencies deadlines ranging from March 25 to May 15 to hand over all task force documents. Some of the agencies affected by the court’s decision include the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget.
The court dismissed the U.S. Department of Energy’s argument that Judicial Watch must refile its request on the grounds that the group had filed its lawsuit too early and, therefore, did not give the government enough time to process the request.
“Nearly ten months later, at least three agencies still have not responded to the plaintiff’s requests,” said Friedman in his decision. “In these circumstances, it would be putting form over substance to dismiss the complaint and require plaintiff to start all over again by filing a new complaint.”
Judicial Watch originally filed a FOI Act request on April 19, 2001. Only two of the seven agencies associated with the task force responded within the required 20-day period as specified by the law.
Friedman’s ruling comes after a similar ruling on Feb. 27 by a federal district court in Washington, D.C., ending a heated debate over whether Cheney could exert executive privilege and keep the meetings secret. The judge in that case criticized the Bush administration’s slow response to the numerous requests for the records.
“The stone wall is beginning to crumble,” said Judicial Watch Chairman Larry Klayman in a press release. “The court’s ruling is a victory for open government and a defeat to the Bush Administration’s efforts to delay release of these Energy Task Force documents.”
(Judicial Watch, Inc. vs. United State Department of Energy) — KC
© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press