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Supreme Court will hear case over Cheney energy task force records

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information    

Supreme Court will hear case over Cheney energy task force records

  • The nation’s high court will determine if courts can force the vice president to comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

Dec. 16, 2003 — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear the Bush administration argue that it does not have to reveal who helped shape the nation’s energy policy through Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force in 2001. The case will likely be heard in the spring.

A federal district court and a split appellate panel have ordered the Bush administration to make the information available to the plaintiffs in the case, Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club. In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. refused to rehear the case before the full court.

The two public interest groups say the Federal Advisory Committee Act entitles them to know not only the names of the government officials who served on the task force, but also the names of the private advisors consulted by the officials. The act requires open meetings and open records when the government solicits advice for the president or government agencies from interests outside the government.

However, the Bush administration has refused to comply. Because its formal roster of task force members includes only government personnel, whose names it has made available, it claims FACA does not apply. Furthermore, they say, under the separation of powers doctrine the court cannot make the vice president and close presidential advisors reveal how advice is given to the president.

The public interest groups have repeatedly pointed to a 1999 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. The court ruled there that subcommittees of the national health care task force, chaired by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, included people outside of government, and information must therefore be made public under FACA.

The make-up of an advisory committee depends upon who actually participates, and not solely on who is advising others on the panel, that court held.

The public interest groups claim there is plenty of evidence that industry officials were involved in Cheney’s task force.

(Cheney v. U.S. District Court; attorney for Sierra Club, Alan Morrison, Washington, D.C., attorney for Judicial Watch, Larry Klayman, Washington, D.C.) RD

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