October 13, 2009 | By Kurt Opsahl

Federal Court Denies Government Attempt to Delay Release of Telecom Records. Again.

Today a federal district court denied the government's latest emergency motion asking for a 30-day stay in last Friday's deadline to release records relating to telecom lobbying over last year's debate over immunity for corporate participation in government spying. The new deadline is October 16, at 4 p.m. Pacific time. We sought the records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.

On September 24, Judge Jeffrey White had ordered the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Justice to turn over many of the records we requested by Friday, October 9, 2009. Last week, the agencies asked him to postpone his order while the government decided whether or not to appeal, which EFF opposed. Judge White denied the motion.

On October 8, the day before the documents were due, the DOJ and ODNI filed an emergency motion asking the Court of Appeals for a 30-day stay while the agencies continue to contemplate an appeal. Around noon on October 9, the Ninth Circuit denied their emergency motion, telling the government it had to file for a motion for a stay pending appeal in the district court first.

Later that afternoon, the government filed again in the federal district court, but once again did not seek a stay pending an actual appeal. Instead, for the third time, the government insisted it could delay the release of telecom lobbying records while it considered the pros and cons of appealing. Briefing was complete by noon today, and Judge White denied the third attempt at delay this afternoon.

Judge White also noted that, even if the government had actually appealed, "in order to obviate the need for the parties to appear once again before this Court before seeking the same redress on appeal, the Court has addressed the pertinent factors it would analyze in denying a motion to stay this action pending appeal," and found the "equities weigh in favor of denial of a stay."

In particular, the Court noted the "current administration’s pointed directive on transparency in government, and the public’s renewed interest in the question of legal immunity for the telecommunications companies that participated in the warrantless wiretapping program while considering currently pending legislation repealing the amendments to FISA, the Court finds that the public interest lies in favor of disclosure."


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