Court won’t order Marines to release North’s records
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In late October, a U.S. District Court in Washington refused to order the U.S. Marine Corps to release Oliver North’s personnel and medical records before Virginia’s Nov. 8 U.S. senatorial election. North is a Republican candidate for one of Virginia’s seats in the U.S. Senate.
Freelance journalist Linda Hunt filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request with the Marine Corps in March 1994, asking for access to North’s personnel and medical records. The Marine Corps released some of the records in early August, but withheld others they claimed were exempt under the Act.
Hunt asked the Corps in mid-September to reconsider. When the Marine Corps had not responded by late October, Hunt asked the district court for an expedited order to require the Corps to make the information available before the election.
The district court said it had to consider whether Hunt was substantially likely to succeed on the merits of her case, whether she or others would suffer “irreparable harm” if the court did not issue the order and whether the order would further the public interest. The court said that Hunt did not meet that test, and that although she might ultimately succeed in her request, she was not entitled to an order expediting the process.
The court added that North might suffer “irreparable injury” to his privacy interests if they were released prematurely.
Citing previous cases concerning similar issues, including a request for access to documents pertaining to Ross Perot when he was a presidential candidate, the court noted that courts should enforce expedited requests only upon a showing of “exceptional need or urgency.” The court concluded that pending elections do not present such a need.
In response to the decision, James Lesar, Hunt’s attorney, said he and Hunt plan to continue to seek disclosure, even after the election.
(Hunt v. United States Marine Corp; Media Counsel: James Lesar, Washington, D.C.)