WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the Bush administration's attempt to take a lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force to a federal appeals court.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan let stand his order requiring the White House by Dec. 9 to produce task force documents it considers not to be privileged and make available a list of documents it believes should continue to be withheld.
Sullivan said Wednesday that the Justice Department had not shown adequate reason why he should turn the case over the appeals court before a final judgment.
Separately, the U.S. Court of Appeals is still considering an emergency petition the Justice Department filed Nov. 12 requesting a review of Sullivan's orders in the case.
The documents are being sought in connection with a lawsuit seeking information on what outside groups influenced the Cheney task force as it prepared an energy policy report in early 2001. The actions were filed by Sierra Club and Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, and later combined into one case.
Government lawyers have argued the documents should be withheld because they are part of the deliberative process. Still, the White House was continuing to examine boxes of task force papers and some 10,000 e-mails in an attempt to comply with the judge's order. Sullivan originally sought the documents by Nov. 5, but extended the deadline.
David Bookbinder, an attorney for the Sierra Club, said the Bush administration's attempt to divert the case to the appeals court was another effort to prolong and delay the litigation and circumvent the Dec. 9 deadline.
Judicial Watch praised Sullivan's ruling in a statement, calling the administration's request for an appeal before the case is even decided "unorthodox to say the least."