The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch is asking the court to lift the “temporary” delay it granted the Justice Department allowing it to withhold Fast and Furious records.
Nearly two years ago, on June 20, 2012, President Obama asserted executive privilege to keep secret a set of documents that Congress subpoenaed concerning the controversial gun walking case. On Aug. 13, 2012 the House Oversight Committee filed suit against the Justice Department to produce the records. The case has been in litigation ever since.
On June 22, 2012, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information request asking for the same documents being withheld under the President’s executive privilege. When the Justice Department rejected the request, Judicial Watch filed suit.
As part of the lawsuit, the Justice Department asked for, and the court granted on Feb. 15, 2013, a temporary delay or “stay” in the Judicial Watch court proceedings, pending the outcome of the Congressional litigation.
The court sided with the Justice Department which argued,
“The principles of comity and respect for orderly judicial process counsel strongly against addressing the privilege claims in this FOIA suit while Judge Jackson actively considers the House Committee litigation.”
The stay has been maintained six more times over the past 15 months.
Last week, Judicial Watch again petitioned to lift the stay stating, in part:
“Although the Department and the Court may have anticipated that the stay of proceedings would be temporary and brief, it has become anything but that. In three weeks, it will have been two years since Judicial Watch sent its FOIA request, more than 21 months since Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit, and 16 months since the Court stayed the proceedings.”
Judicial Watch argues that there is no dispute over its right to receive all non-exempt records that it has requested, and that it has “waited long enough to have its day in court.”
As for the status of the lawsuit between the House Oversight Committee and the Justice Department, the two sides have not been able to reach a settlement. In their latest Joint Status Report to the court, they disagreed on whether continued mediation through a third party would be productive. The court did not grant a Justice Department motion to dismiss. Each side has asked for a summary judgement in their favor, but the court has not yet ruled.
A joint status report in the Judicial Watch case is due July 31.