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DOJ Asks Court To Rethink Releasing Immigration Docs

DOJ Asks Court To Rethink Releasing Immigration Docs

The U.S. Department of Justice on April 6 urged an Illinois federal court to reconsider its holding last month saying that the department may have erred in withholding documents related to decisions by previous attorneys general after an immigrants advocacy group sought copies of them, asserting that the judge misquoted a U.S. Supreme Court case.

Read correctly, the relevant language cited from a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case known as NLRB v. Sears Roebuck & Co. establishes that the federal government is not required to release into public view documents that were withheld because they were part of the deliberative process, according to the DOJ’s memorandum accompanying its motion for reconsideration.

“The erroneous quotation from Sears appears to have influenced the court’s analysis of whether the deliberative process privilege may protect a document that discusses an agency’s policy,” the memorandum reads. “Therefore, DOJ requests that this court correct the quotation of the Supreme Court’s decision cited in its decision and clarify the proper scope of exemption 5 in light of the corrected quote.”

In March, U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood ordered the DOJ to review all documents sought by the National Immigrant Justice Center that the department asserts may be withheld because they were part of the deliberative process, and either provide them to the organization or allow the judge to review them so she can make the final determination, according to her order.

In 2010, the organization sought copies of records related to 11 Board of Immigration Appeals cases that previous attorneys general referred to themselves for review and in which final decisions were entered, according to the order. Although the organization received thousands of pages of copies, it argued that the DOJ withheld other documents and thus violated the Freedom of Information Act.

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