Denied! Bates Refuses to Stay Order in Miers/Bolten Suit

Judge Bates isn’t helping BushCo sustain their USA purge cover-up and stall. Today, he denied the White House’s motion for a stay of his earlier order pending appeal. He got a bit snarky in his opinion denying the stay–I imagine David Addington is having fits right now.

The Executive has failed to demonstrate that it has a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the absolute immunity issue or that it has even raised a question “so serious, substantial, difficult and doubtful,” id., as to warrant suspending the effect of the July 31st Order pending appeal. To begin with, the Executive devotes almost the entirety of its briefing on this prong to arguing that the Court’s Order is “susceptible to serious debate” concerning the threshold decisions relating to the Committee’s standing and cause of action. See Defs.’ Mot. at 5-6. But even assuming that the Executive’s proposition were correct — which it is not — its reliance upon that point is misplaced. The D.C. Circuit has explained that the stay pending appeal inquiry looks to the likelihood of success on the merits of the appeal itself, see Philip Morris, 314 F.3d at 617. Here, however, the denial of the Executive’s motion to dismiss is not presently subject to appeal because it is not a final order.


The Executive’s argument boils down to a claim that a stay is appropriate because the underlying issue is important. But that is beside the point and does not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. Simply calling an issue important — primarily because it involves the relationship of the political branches — does not transform the Executive’s weak arguments into a likelihood of success or a substantial appellate issue. Hence, the Court concludes that this prong of the stay pending appeal analysis cuts strongly in favor of the Committee. [my emphasis]

Bates goes on at some length, calling out the transparent BS in BushCo’s arguments.

Kagro X and I chatted briefly about what this means–I expect him to do a post on how, absent some enforcement mechanism, this doesn’t exactly guarantee that Miers will show before HJC anytime soon. (Gosh, I’ve never heard him make that argument before.)

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BREAKING: Judge Bates Rules for the House

Judge Bates just issued his opinion in the Miers and Bolten contempt case–and he ruled in favor of the House. Miers will have to appear and Bolten will have to turn over the documents a description of the documents he is withholding. (I guess all it took was for me to post this post.)

This also means Rove will have to appear, as Bates threw out the notion of "absolute immunity."

I’ll have more shortly.

Update: Here’s the opinion. (Note, I’ve fixed my statement above–Bolten has to turn over a description of the documents he is withholding, but not the documents, yet.)

Here’s the crux of Bates’ logic:

Notwithstanding that the opposing litigants in this case are co-equal branches of the federal government, at bottom this lawsuit involves a basic judicial task — subpoena enforcement — with which federal courts are very familiar.

Update: Here’s what Bates thinks of this "absolute immunity" claim:

Indeed, the aspect of this lawsuit that is unprecedented is the notion that Ms. Miers is absolutely immune from compelled congressional process. The Supreme Court has reserved absolute immunity for very narrow circumstances, involving the President’s personal exposure to suits for money damages based on his official conduct or concerning matters of national security or foreign affairs. The Executive’s current claim of absolute immunity from compelled congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law. The fallacy of that claim was presaged in United States v. Nixon itself (id. at 706):

neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the need for confidentiality of high level communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial [or congressional] process under all circumstances.

Also, bonus points to Bates for mentioning Boumediene, which is sure to cause BushCo a whole lot of heartburn.

Update: Here’s Conyers on the decision.

Today’s landmark ruling is a ringing reaffirmation of the fundamental principle of checks and balances and the basic American idea that no person is above the law. Judge Bates’ decision makes clear that the Congress had the right to subpoena Harriet Miers to learn of her role in the US Attorney firings, that her claim to be immune from subpoena was invalid and that the Committee was entitled to challenge that claim in Court. The Judge also ruled that the White House may not claim Executive Privilege over documents without describing them in reasonable detail Read more