Putting TRAC to Work
  Legal and Scholarly
August 5, 2021

'It's Unbelievable': Why a Judge Hauled the DC Civil Division's Head Into an Obscure Records Lawsuit
By Jacqueline Thomsen

“I don’t know what more to do and I don’t know what more to say other than escalating this to people who will actually understand that when a court actually rules on something, that that order should be followed," U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said at a hearing last week.
When a telephonic status conference in a years-long public records lawsuit began Wednesday, all the parties had dialed in—plus the acting head of the civil division in the U.S. attorney’s office for D.C. It’s rare for the head of a division to appear during a court hearing, particularly in litigation that has largely proceeded under the radar. Brian Hudak had been summoned by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta of the District of Columbia, after the judge said government officials weren’t complying with a past order he issued in the case. During a status hearing held last week, Mehta took issue with redactions Immigration and Customs Enforcement made in records it provided to the plaintiffs in the case, which he said conflicted with a court opinion he issued last June, according to a transcript of the hearing posted by the FOIA Project. “It’s as if nobody heard a word I had to say last time we were here,” Mehta said at that hearing, according to the transcript. “I am literally at a loss right now. I am at a loss. I have never, in my judicial career, had an agency respond to a judicial order in the way that ICE has responded to this order in this case.” The judge took issue with a sample of a redacted data dictionary that ICE provided to the plaintiffs in the case, represented by attorneys with the nonprofit Public Citizen, as well as a declaration by an ICE official. Mehta said the documents were 95% redacted, conflicting with his prior ruling on allowing information to be released as well as past testimony provided by ICE.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2021
TRAC TRAC at Work TRAC TRAC at Work News Organizations News Organizations