July 9, 2008
Contact: Naomi Seligman 202.408.5565 email@example.com
9 Jul 2008 // Washington, DC – Last evening, District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted CREW's request for a stay pending appeal in CREW v. Office of Administration, a lawsuit seeking documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding the White House's loss of millions of emails from White House servers. Although Judge Kollar-Kotelly had ruled last month that the Office of Administration (OA) is not an agency subject to the FOIA, CREW had sought a stay of that ruling to require the White House to preserve documents that would have to be produced, should CREW prevail on appeal. Justice Department lawyers had argued that a stay was unnecessary because they had assured CREW that the records would be preserved, but Judge Kollar-Kotelly rejected this argument, becoming the second judge to rule in litigation brought by CREW that assurances from the White House and/or its counsel that it will preserve documents are not a sufficient substitute for a court order.
Under the Presidential Records Act, all presidential records are transferred to the Archivist at the end of the administration. As a result, CREW is concerned that even if the court of appeals rules in CREW's favor and finds OA is an agency, meaning that its records must be produced to CREW, once the records are transferred to the Archivist they will be difficult to recover. Although CREW had asked that OA maintain control of these records past the end of the Bush administration, the court ruled only that if the appeal is not resolved by January 5, 2009, CREW may renew its motion for a stay addressing the impact of the transition on the requested records.
Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel, said, "This ruling is an important step in holding the White House accountable by ensuring that the records regarding the millions of missing emails are preserved. These records belong not to the president, but to the American people. The public deserves an explanation of what happened to the missing emails, and CREW will continue to fight to get that explanation."