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Judge orders DOJ official to cooperate in tobacco settlement FOIA lawsuit

[JURIST] A federal judge on Thursday ordered [opinion text, PDF] Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum [official profile] to comply with discovery requests related to a lawsuit filed by legal watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] against the Department of Justice seeking to reveal why the government suddenly lowered its demands for relief [JURIST report] in its landmark civil racketeering case against the tobacco industry [DOJ backgrounder]. In June 2005, CREW submitted Freedom of Information Act requests asking for relevant communication records between the White House and the DOJ and between McCallum and his former law firm Alston & Bird, where McCallum represented several tobacco companies, and filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; CREW case materials] earlier this year when those requests were not answered by the DOJ.

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan said that given the volume of materials provided by the DOJ to Congress on a yearly basis, the DOJ should have promptly responded to the document requests. Sullivan also ruled that McCallum must submit to deposition requests in the case, which will hinder his nomination as ambassador to Australia, which has been blocked by Sen. Rick Durbin [Reuters report] pending the outcome of an investigation [JURIST report] by the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility into allegations of improper conduct in the decision to reduce damages sought in the tobacco case. AP has more.

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