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Judge orders White House to turn over energy task force documents

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    NMU         D.C. CIRCUIT         Freedom of Information         Oct 18, 2002    

Judge orders White House to turn over energy task force documents

  • White House documents that detail membership rolls and meeting schedules of the National Energy Policy Development Group must be released, a federal judge ordered on Oct. 18.

The White House must turn over documents from Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force by Nov. 5, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered Oct.18 in Washington, D.C.

The order stemmed from a open meetings lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, Inc., a government watchdog organization in Washington, D.C. Sierra Club, a San Francisco-based environmental organization later sued and is now a co-plaintiff with Judicial Watch.

The National Energy Policy Development Group produced a policy paper in May 2001 that called for more oil and gas drilling and a revived nuclear power program. Environmental groups claimed they were excluded from meetings.

Justice Department lawyers said they would seek a suspension of the order or consider appealing it.

The Bush administration earlier released thousands of pages of documents in pretrial discovery, but refused to hand over documents that related specifically to Cheney and other White House advisors, claiming that turning over the documents would violate the separation of powers.

Sullivan outlined his reasoning in a July 11 Memorandum of Opinion:”The fact that the government may want to advocate a new theory of Executive authority and the separation of powers is its prerogative. It cannot, however, cloak what is tantamount to an aggrandizement of Executive power with the legitimacy of precedent where none exists.”

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called the ruling “a victory for openness in government” in an Oct. 18 statement. “And for the Vice President to cite executive privilege and ‘constitutional’ concerns over documents no one has yet examined shows that the arrogance and bad faith stonewalling of the Bush Administration has risen to new heights. Their gamesmanship must end.”

(Judicial Watch v. National Energy Policy Development Group; Counsel: Larry Klayman, Washington, D.C.) JL

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