The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned a lower court choice in which judges dismissed claims from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative think tank that tried to get correspondence from a top White House official through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) said it did not need to search for or turn over records held by the head of the OSTP on a personal e-mail account as part of the open records demand.
In addition to main White House email, John Holdren, the director of the OSTP, also sent out and received e-mails from a domain at the Woods Hole Research.
Throughout the case, the government said that documents on a nongovernmental email server are outside the property or control of federal agencies, and thus beyond the scope of FOIA.
Judge David Sentelle, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, disagreed with that thinking and bought the lower court to reevaluate the case.
If a department head can deprive the residents of their right to understand what his department depends on by the easy expedient of maintaining his departmental e-mails on an account in another domain, that function is hardly served, Sentelle composed.
It would make as much sense to state that the department head could deny requestors of hard-copy documents by leaving them in a file at his daughter s house and then claiming that they are under her control, he stated.
While Holdren did forward a few of his job-related e-mails from his private e-mail account to his federal government one yielding 110 pages of responsive documents in the FOIA demand Sentelle said the agency still had to do a search to make sure no other undisclosed records remained in the account.
The case is not yet last and has been remanded for additional proceedings.
CEI applauded the ruling on Tuesday.
While today’s ruling is a significant victory for government openness, it’s sensational that it takes a court decision for federal staff members to be held accountable to the law, said Marlo Lewis, CEI senior fellow, in a declaration. The most transparent administration in history has actually proven over and over that it has no intention of actually letting the American public understand exactly what it is doing. Just believe, if today’s ruling had gone the other method, the implication would be that all federal government business could be transacted on personal email and be unnoticeable to citizens, totally gutting FOIA absurd!”.
” Director Holdren is not the first company visit be found utilizing private email for his government work, but as we continue our legal battle in this case, we seek for this unlawful behavior to come to an end,” Lewis added.
The ruling was released the very same day that FBI Director James Comey announced his department is not advising criminal charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of a personal e-mail server while secretary of State.
Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, has actually said she erased personal emails from her server while turning over job-related messages to the State Department, which has actually been launching them in batches in response to FOIA demands and claims.