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Judicial Watch calls for Dean to release papers

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Judicial Watch calls for Dean to release papers

  • A watchdog group is seeking sealed gubernatorial papers of presidential candidate and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and says it will consider legal action for them.

Oct. 8, 2003 — Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group, has called for Democratic presidential candidate and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean to release his gubernatorial papers to the public. Some of Dean’s papers are sealed by agreement between Dean and the Vermont State Archives. The papers are scheduled to remain under seal until January 2013.

Judicial Watch requested the papers from Gregory Sanford, Vermont’s archivist, under the state Freedom of Information Act on Aug. 25. Sanford denied access, citing the agreement. On Oct. 1, Judicial Watch asked Dean to release the papers and, according to The Boston Globe, is now considering legal action. The Globe has also requested access to the documents.

The documents were sealed by executive privilege when Dean left office after nearly 12 years, in January 2003. Typically, such documents relate to a governor’s deliberative processes on legislative or political matters. According to Dean’s campaign, two-thirds of his gubernatorial records have been made public. The Boston Globe reported that this includes “all official correspondence, proclamations, declarations, pardons, extraditions and appointments.”

In January, Dean told Vermont Public Radio, “There are future political considerations. We didn’t want anything embarrassing appearing in the papers at a critical time in any future endeavor,” he said.

The sealed records are currently available only pursuant to a court order or with Dean’s permission.

Such agreements are not unusual. The previous two Vermont governors, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, had similar agreements sealing their records for six years. Presidential records are sealed for 12 years. According to Sanford’s letter to Judicial Watch, the 10-year period was chosen as a “reasonable but brief” duration in verbal discussions between himself and Dean’s legal counsel.

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