Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obama: Court Schools Obama on Transparency

Politico.com reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (consisting of Judges Douglas Ginsburg, Judith Rogers and Merrick Garland) has upheld a district court decision in favor of former Washington Post reporter, George Lardner Jr., who wants the Justice Department to disclose the names of applicants for presidential pardons or commutations who were unsuccessful.

Despite impressive campaign rhetoric by president Obama regarding transparency in government and elaborate posing by Attorney General Eric Holder, the administration has sought to block this information from the public and its lame arguments may have finally been put to rest.

Among other things, the court observed that the Justice Department's concerns with "confidentiality and stigma" were "undermined" by procedures which actually inform applicants that the Office of the Pardon Attorney "reserves the right to release information to neighbors and employers" in the course of investigating an suitability for clemency. Regulations also "advise applicants that certain information in their applications will be released when a third party inquires 'concerning a specific, named person.'"

Josh Gerstein, reporting for Politico.com says that, since the case was disposed of via "memo" instead of a "formal opinion," there may be "some doubts about whether the opinion would be binding in subsequent cases." See story here. See court's opinion here.

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