A federal appeals court rebuffed Vice President Dick Cheney (search), refusing to intervene in a lawsuit delving into the role of business executives and industry lobbyists in formulating the Bush administration's energy plan in 2001.

The administration won only three votes in favor of rehearing the request to step into the case in which Cheney and his energy task force (search) are being ordered to turn over a large number of documents to the conservative group Judicial Watch (search) and the environmental group Sierra Club (search). The request for a rehearing went to nine appeals court judges.

The rejection Wednesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit leaves the Bush administration two choices.

The first is to ask the Supreme Court (search) to consider the case. The other is to return to U.S. District Court where Judge Emmet Sullivan says the administration must comply with requests for documents or give detailed explanations about the materials it intends to withhold from disclosure.

The administration argues that the constitutional need for the president to receive candid advice demands confidentiality.