Supreme Court to Hear Cheney’s Energy Task Force Appeal
The two groups pressing for the documents, the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch, sued in 2001 to find out the names and positions of members of the energy task force, which was headed by Cheney that year.
The groups claim that when Cheney drafted the energy policy he ignored environmentalists, but consulted industry executives, such as Enron’s Kenneth Lay.
“We’re hoping that at the end of this process the court is going to remind the vice president that he’s not above the law,” said Sierra Club lawyer David Bookbinder. “That’s the claim he’s been making throughout this process, that he is simply immune from any inquiry into his activities.”
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the White House earlier this year to provide documents about the energy task force or list the documents that it was withholding and the reasons why.
The White House appealed the order, saying it was immune from providing the documents on constitutional grounds.
The administration argues that if Cheney must turn over the documents, then the president may have a difficult time receiving candid advice because people will fear that their comments could be made public.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals refused to intervene, saying that Cheney had no legal rights to refuse the court’s order.
The case will be heard in the spring, and a decision is due by the end of June.
Cheney’s lawyers say that though the vice president did meet with Lay, his task force was comprised of government officials.
The task force produced a policy paper in 2001 that called for more oil and drilling and the revival of a nuclear power program.
Though federal agencies have turned over 39,000 pages of documents that relate to the task force, the White House has not disclosed any materials.
The Sierra Club accused the Bush administration of stalling the release of information until after the 2004 presidential election, Reuters reported.