Friday, September 17, 2010

DOJ Court Showing: Not Impressive

The Blog of Legal Times reports that a Justice Department attorney "encountered a skeptical panel of judges today in trying to convince the court to allow the government to keep secret the list of people whose clemency applications were denied under the presidency of George W. Bush." A request for the names has been made by George Lardner under the Freedom of Information Act. It is reported that President Bush rejected more than 9,200 applications.

DOJ Civil Division attorney John Koppel says any public interest in the names is “negligible and highly speculative” and argues that publishing the names of rejected applicants might bring attention to past crimes and stigmatize applicants. But Judge Douglas Ginsburg correctly noted that it is the applicant who would be responsible for bringing up an old crime. Ginsburg also noted the denial of an application could generate as much attention as a grant. See full post here.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

This must be an example of the increased transparency Obama promised when he first took office.

The preamble to Texas' Public Information Act offers the best response I can think of to DOJ's claim that the public interest in those names is "speculative":

"Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

Editor: Wow! What a powerful, awesome statement! Thanks for sharing it. Lardner is a saint for pursuing these matters. It would be nice to see him get everything he wants, and some. The DOJ/OPA has been riding a wave of secrecy way too long. Few other areas of government have become more secretive since 1932. Here, we have an unacceptable exception. Best,

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