A federal judge will decide Tuesday whether to lift a 16-month-old "temporary" stay on a non-profit government watchdog's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for Operation Fast and Furious scandal documents.
At issue in the hearing will be whether U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson agrees with Judicial Watch that the court should reopen consideration of the non-profit's September 2012 FOIA suit.
|The court may have anticipated that the stay of proceedings would be temporary and brief, it has become anything but that.|
That consideration ended abruptly in February 2013 when Jackson issued at the request of the Justice Department, which argued the documents were protected from public disclosure by President Obama's assertion of executive privilege.
The documents were requested by Judicial Watch on June 22, 2012, two days after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subpoenaed them in its investigation of the Obama administration's program allowing sales of weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
The administration hoped the weapons would turn up at crime scenes and thus provide evidence linking cartel leaders and enabling their prosecution.
In its motion to reopen the court's consideration of the FOIA suit, Judicial Watch said Justice officials oppose lifting the stay "because nothing substantive has happened in the House Committee litigation. That is the point. Sixteen months have passed since the Court first stayed the proceedings, and the House Committee litigation is no closer to resolution."
The executive privilege dispute between Obama and Congress has not been settled, Judicial Watch argued, "and Judge Jackson did not grant the department's motion to dismiss. It is now time for this court to adjudicate the FOIA case before it."
That dispute produced some of the most acrimonious congressional hearings in recent memory, including particular biting exchanges between committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and several Justice Department officials.
Attorney General Eric Holder was cited June 28, 2012, for contempt of Congress in a 255-67 vote that included 17 House Democrats supporting the citation that was opposed by only two House Republicans.
Judge Jackson has continued her stay six times since first issuing it despite reassuring Judicial Watch at the outset that it would be "temporary."
Now the nonprofit argues that "[though] 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."
Editor's note: Judicial Watch is representing the Washington Examiner in the newspaper's federal lawsuit seeking access to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau records under FOIA.
Mark Tapscott is executive editor of the Washington Examiner.