Holder seeks appeal of ruling allowing House contempt charges to proceed

Posted at 8:51 PM, Nov 16, 2013
By Conor Finnegan and Jonathan Auerbach


WASHINGTON (CNN) — Attorney General Eric Holder is seeking an appeal to a judge’s ruling that allows the House of Representatives to proceed with contempt charges over the Justice Department program Operation Fast and Furious.

Holder is being held in contempt by the House for refusing to turn over documents about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ gun-tracking program that allowed thousands of weapons to flow to Mexican drug cartels. The Obama administration invoked executive privilege to keep sealed some records over their response to Fast and Furious. The House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, subsequently voted to hold Holder in contempt last year.

The Justice Department filed the motion late Friday evening, asking the U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to send the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In September, Judge Jackson, an Obama appointee, allowed the case against Holder to proceed despite the administration’s request to dimiss the suit.

The motion argues that because Jackson’s ruling has “potentially great significance” in its ability to alter to the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches, the “Defendant respectfully requests that this Court certify its decision for interlocutory appeal and stay further proceedings pending the disposition of that appeal.”

In plainer language, they are arguing a higher court needs to weigh in on the case before it can proceed because the issue involved could affect the separation of powers in a “momentous,” and in their opinion, harmful way.

“The very experience of participating in such proceedings will cause harm — to the Defendant, the Executive Branch, and the separation of powers — that cannot be reversed if the D.C. Circuit ultimately rules in Defendant’s favor on the threshold questions presented,” the motion says. “In light of the harm to the separation of powers that such an adjudication would entail, including the impact of such proceedings on the negotiation process between the political Branches — a process that has generally proceeded without judicial involvement since the inception of congressional oversight — Defendant’s jurisdictional objections should be resolved by the Circuit before this Court takes such a momentous step.”

Judge Jackson has yet to rule on whether it was legal for the administration to use executive privilege in the first place.

Judge dismisses lawsuit of slain agent’s family

In another development in the Fast and Furious saga, a federal judge in Arizona has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the parents of a U.S. Border Patrol agent killed in a gun battle with Mexican drug cartel members, where two rifles from the Fast and Furious operation were later found.

Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in 2010 about 18 miles from the Mexican border. Terry’s parents sued several employees of the U.S. Attorney’s office and the U.S. Department of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, claiming Terry’s death resulted from their failure to intercept illegally purchased weapons.

U.S. officials have not produced evidence that Terry was killed by either of the weapons found at the scene of his killing.

Kent Terry, father of Brian, declined comment Saturday when contacted by CNN.

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