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Federal court rules Cheney has discretion over preservation of records

[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] granted summary judgment [opinion, PDF] on Monday in favor of Vice President Dick Cheney [official profile; JURIST news archive], giving Cheney broad discretion over which vice presidential records should be preserved. The lawsuit, initiated by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] against Cheney and the Executive Office of the President [official website], alleges that Bush administration is illegally trying to keep certain records from the public. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly [official profile] ruled that the plaintiffs were not entitled relief under the Presidential Record Act (PRA) [44 U.S.C. § 2201 et seq. text]. The court found that:

Plaintiffs argue throughout their submissions to the Court that the Presidential Records Act should not be read to vest broad discretion in the Vice President to handle the preservation of his own records during his term in office without the possibility of judicial oversight. The Court is nevertheless bound to apply the Presidential Records Act as Congress enacted it, which provides only narrow areas of oversight relating to the Vice President’s document preservation decisions.

To the extent that this lawsuit highlights any unintended consequences stemming from the Presidential Records Act, Plaintiffs’ remedy lies with Congress and not this Court.
The court also found that the plaintiffs had actionable claims against the Executive Office of the President, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) [official website], and the Archivist of the United States [official profile].

The controversy over Cheney's records has been ongoing for several months. In September, the court issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] requiring the preservation of all of Cheney's official records. In November, the court ordered [JURIST report] Cheney aide, Claire O'Donnell, to testify on the matter. In 2007, the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official website] released documents showing that Cheney had exempted his office [JURIST report] from an executive order requiring executive branch officials to submit annual reports to ensure that classified information is properly secured.

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