Judge Koeltl silent on request to have U.S. Attorney Bharara recuse himself from FOIA lawsuit

By LOUIS FLORES

The Hon. U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl has yet to respond to a letter request filed on 23 February by the publisher of Progress Queens, asking for the Court's permission to file a brief letter motion. In the letter request, the publisher of Progress Queens revealed that he would be requesting the recusal of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara from litigation commenced by the publisher of Progress Queens. The litigation in question was filed under the Freedom of Information Act in a dispute over the refusal by the U.S. Department of Justice to release records about the speeches given by U.S. Attorney Bharara.

In January 2017, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara received an award from the New York State Bar Association at its annual convention in Manhattan. U.S. Attorney Bharara routinely delivers speeches to banks, universities, and in public settings. However, not all of the records of U.S. Attorney Bharara's speeches are made public. For example, Web pages maintained by the U.S. Attorney's Office only publish the transcripts of some of U.S. Attorney Bharara's speeches. The publisher of Progress Queens filed a FOIA Request, seeking the release of records of U.S. Attorney Bharara's speeches. When the U.S. Department of Justice made determinations that would prevent the release of the records, the publisher of Progress Queens filed an administrative appeal of those determinations. When the DOJ failed to answer the FOIA Appeal, the publisher of Progress Queens commenced the FOIA Lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl is overseeing the litigation. Source : Louis Flores/Progress Queens File Photograph

In January 2017, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara received an award from the New York State Bar Association at its annual convention in Manhattan. U.S. Attorney Bharara routinely delivers speeches to banks, universities, and in public settings. However, not all of the records of U.S. Attorney Bharara's speeches are made public. For example, Web pages maintained by the U.S. Attorney's Office only publish the transcripts of some of U.S. Attorney Bharara's speeches. The publisher of Progress Queens filed a FOIA Request, seeking the release of records of U.S. Attorney Bharara's speeches. When the U.S. Department of Justice made determinations that would prevent the release of the records, the publisher of Progress Queens filed an administrative appeal of those determinations. When the DOJ failed to answer the FOIA Appeal, the publisher of Progress Queens commenced the FOIA Lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl is overseeing the litigation. Source : Louis Flores/Progress Queens File Photograph

The U.S. Attorney's Office headed by U.S. Attorney Bharara represents the DOJ in the FOIA Lawsuit. The DOJ was named as the Defendant in the FOIA Lawsuit, because it is the Federal agency with oversight of the U.S. Attorney's Office. When an Assistant U.S. Attorney made a recent request before the Court, seeking an extension of time to file a pleading in the FOIA Lawsuit, the Federal attorney signed the letter filed by the Government on behalf of U.S. Attorney Bharara.

Under rules applicable to Federal attorneys, an attorney must recuse himself or herself from an action if the attorney has a personal interest in the outcome of the action. See U.S. Dep’t of Justice, United States Attorneys’ Manual § 3-2.170.

Because the Defendant's request for an extension of time was granted, the publisher of Progress Queens commenced a liquids-only fast on 27 February, the start date of the extension of time. The fast is expected to last 21 days, or the number of days granted to the DOJ as an extension of time by which it must file its Answer to the Complaint. The fast may end sooner, if the DOJ files its Answer before the conclusion of the 21 days.

Under the FOIA, the Government is allowed to withhold documents in accordance with specific, but limited, Exemptions enumerated in the code. None of those exemptions include permission to withhold documents if the withholding serves the personal interests of a Government official.