WASHINGTON -- A federal judge has delayed the lawsuit House Republicans brought against Attorney General Eric Holder over the Fast and Furious scandal, taking a shot at the House of Representatives in the process.
Given the current government shutdown, the Justice Department asked this week to delay proceedings in a lawsuit filed by the House Oversight Committee accusing Holder of contempt of Congress because he did not turn over documents in response to a subpoena related to a botched operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF operation, known as Fast and Furious, allowed weapons to flow into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the House committee sued Holder to force the Justice Department to turn over the documents.
Lawyers for the Oversight Committee had opposed a delay to the proceedings and said it was "conceivable that appropriations will be restored" by an Oct. 15 court deadline. But the federal judge sided with the DOJ.
"There are no exigent circumstances in this case that would justify an order of the Court forcing furloughed attorneys to return to their desks," U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered. "Moreover, 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."
Earlier this week, Jackson denied the DOJ's motion to dismiss the case altogether. The DOJ had argued that the judicial branch shouldn't get involved in squabbles between the executive and the legislative branches.
DOJ spokesman Brian Fallon, responding to the rejection of the department's request for dismissal before he and all other employees in the Justice Department's Office of Public Affairs were furloughed, said the decision "reflects only the determination that the court has jurisdiction to adjudicate the case. As the court specifically noted, this was not a decision about the validity of the assertion of executive privilege."