- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A federal judge yesterday blocked the Bush administration's attempt to take a lawsuit against Vice President Richard B. 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.

Judge Sullivan said the Justice Department had not shown adequate reason why he should turn the case over to the appeals court before a final judgment.

Separately, the U.S. Court of Appeals is still considering an emergency petition filed Nov. 12 by the Justice Department that requests a review of Judge Sullivan's orders in the case.

The documents are being sought in connection with a lawsuit seeking information on what outside groups influenced Mr. Cheney's task force as it prepared an energy policy report in early 2001. The actions were filed by the conservationist 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 about 10,000 e-mail messages in an attempt to comply with the judge's order. Judge 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 delay the litigation and circumvent the Dec. 9 deadline.

Judicial Watch praised Judge Sullivan's ruling in a statement, calling the administration's request for an appeal before the case is decided "unorthodox to say the least."


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