Blog — Earmarks

August 07, 2014

CREW wins $70,000 payout from the Department of Justice

By CREW Staff

Money RollingThanks to a federal judge’s ruling, and a stubborn Department of Justice, CREW is in line to cash a big check.

On Monday U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that DOJ must reimburse us more than $70,000 in legal attorney fees accumulated during our court fight to reveal documents relating to the failed corruption probe of Rep. Don Young (R-AK).

In January of 2011 we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out why the DOJ’s Criminal Division never brought charges against the congressman, despite ample evidence of wrongdoing. The government steadfastly refused to release those documents, citing “privacy concerns.” So we filed suit.

The Legal Times explains the rest:

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled against the government. Young’s privacy interests were “much diminished” because information about the investigation was already public, the judge said. She also found that the government failed to make specific enough arguments for exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act.

In her ruling, Judge Kessler cited public interest in the documents and labeled the government’s decision “unreasonable.”

"It should be noted that in its opening brief on the merits, DoJ took the position that there was no public interest in the requested records," Kessler wrote on Monday. The government's stance in the FOIA case, the judge said, was "particularly hard to take seriously" given the prominence of Young's service in the House.

Additionally, the judge labeled the DOJ’s attempts to challenge our request for fees nit-picking and a waste of time. While we expect the Justice Department to appeal the ruling, we certainly feel a sense of vindication.

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