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July 26, 2013

Judge tells DoJ: Try harder on Jerry Lewis FOIA response

A #FOIA request probing ex-Rep. Jerry Lewis gets a boost from a federal judge, who also flashes impatience with the Justice Department's response to date.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has been involved in a long-running dispute with DoJ, as the self-styled watchdog group seeks documents concerning an investigation of Lewis, a California Republican and the former chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

DoJ identified "6,194 actually responsive documents, totaling 25,414 pages, all of which it sought to withhold in whole or in part," Judge James Boasberg noted in his July 25 decision.

In his 29-page decision, Boasberg says the Justice Department failed to provide adequate justification for withholding documents under various FOIA exemptions. Repeatedly, as he works his way through the DoJ's request for summary judgment, Boasberg calls inadequate the "one paragraph of justification" and the "brief justification" and the "purported justifications that fail to provide the court with sufficient information."

Pointedly, Boasberg blasts a "scant affidavit" by the the Executive Office of the U.S. Attorneys, which Boasberg says "includes a mere paragraph explaining why nearly 4,000 documents are being withheld pursuant to the deliberative-process privilege (and) offers only circular justification for the withholdings that parrot back the relevant standards."



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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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