Federal judge refuses to dismiss suit over Holder subpoena

Federal judge refuses to dismiss suit over Holder subpoena

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Tuesday rejected a request [opinion, PDF] by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to dismiss a suit over subpoenaed documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious [materials]. The lawsuit [JURIST report], filed in August 2012 by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee against Attorney General Eric Holder [official websites], requests a court order requiring Holder to deliver specific documents subpoenaed by the committee and withheld by Holder under an assertion of executive privilege [Cornell LII backgrounder]. In the ruling, US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote:

In the Court’s view, endorsing the proposition that the executive may assert an unreviewable right to withhold materials from the legislature would offend the Constitution more than undertaking to resolve the specific dispute that has been presented here. After all, the Constitution contemplates not only a separation, but a balance, of powers.

The DOJ requested that the suit be dismissed [JURIST report] in October 2012.

Operation Fast and Furious was a failed DOJ investigation involving tracked guns that were permitted to travel from Arizona to Mexico in an attempt to stop weapons trafficking by high-level arms dealers. In June of last year the DOJ announced that it would not prosecute Holder after the Oversight Committee voted to hold him in contempt of Congress [JURIST reports] for failing to comply fully with the committee’s subpoenas. Upon being held in contempt Holder responded [press release], “[t]oday’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided—and politically motivated—investigation during an election year,” and stated he would continue to focus on the government’s job of protecting the American people. US President Barack Obama ultimately asserted executive privilege on the subpoenaed documents, effectively rendering the contempt charge moot. The DOJ submitted a joint staff report [text, PDF] to the committee in July 2011, discussing the effects of the admittedly failed operation in Mexico. The committee began investigating the operation [press release] through the DOJ’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives [official website] in April of that year.