House to Blame in Fast and Furious Case Delay, Judge Says
House Republicans suing Attorney General Eric Holder for documents in their probe of the botched Operation Fast and Furious will have to put up with a delay in their case.
After the U.S. Justice Department yesterday asked to suspend the litigation, saying it lacked adequate staff for civil cases because of the partial government shutdown, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee argued the request should be denied. Government lawyers were continuing to work when a court ordered them to do so, they said.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson today in Washington put the case on hold.
“While the vast majority of litigants who now must endure a delay in the progress of their matters do so due to circumstances beyond their control, that cannot be said of the House of Representatives, which has played a role in the shutdown that prompted the stay motion,” she said.
“There are no exigent circumstances in this case that would justify an order of the court forcing furloughed attorneys to return to their desks,” Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, said in her order.
The Republican-controlled committee sued Holder to enforce a subpoena its inquiry into Operation Fast and Furious, a department probe that allowed illegal gun purchases in the U.S. in an effort to link the weapons to Mexican gangs.
“While the committee doesn’t agree a delay is necessary, the judge’s ruling will only pause the case until a funding compromise is reached,” Becca Watkins, a spokeswoman for the House panel, said in an e-mailed statement.
The Justice Department has sought to curtail or postpone cases across the country as much as possible without significantly compromising “the safety of human life or the protection of property,” according to the department’s website.
If a court denies a request to postpone a case, the government will consider the judge’s order “legal authorization to continue” with staffing at the minimum level, Justice Department planners said.
The case is Committee on Oversight and Government Reform v. Holder, 1:12-cv-01332, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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