Thursday, March 18, 2004

Librarians urge Supreme Court to Reject the Government's Claim That it May Conduct the Public's Business in Secret

I like the motto of ALA's Government Documents Roundtable: Documents to the People!

The following is an email I received from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) today. Since the topic should be of interest to anyone who is in favor of transparency in government.

The U. S. Supreme Court should “reject the government’s claim that it may conduct the public’s business in secret” according to a “friends of the court” (amici curiae) brief submitted by four leading library associations, a national archival association, and five public interest organizations in support of the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch, Inc. in the case of Richard B. Cheney, Vice President of the United States, et. al., v. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The case concerns the request by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch for disclosure of whom, outside of the government, participated in the vice president’s National Energy Policy Development Group. Vice President Cheney has refused to disclose any information about the group.

In 2002, the federal district court granted the motions of the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch to proceed with discovery about the makeup of the task force. The government appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which in July 2003 refused to overturn the lower court's order. The government then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case, which it agreed to do in December 2003.

The amici joining in this brief share the conviction that broad access to government records protects values essential to representative democracy and promotes public participation in public policy. They hold that “public participation in government can be meaningful only if the people know what officials are doing, and how they are doing it. Equally, without that information the people can’t hold public officials accountable for their actions.”

The amici are the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, the Center for American Progress, Common Cause, the National Security Archive, People for the American Way Foundation, the Society of American Archivists, and the Special Libraries Association.

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