Saturday, August 06, 2005

Justice Dept denies request for Roberts documents


Justice Dept denies request for Roberts documents

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush Administration refused on Friday to release some documents sought by Democratic lawmakers from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' work as deputy solicitor general, opening the door for conflict as the Senate votes later this year on his confirmation.

"It is simply contrary to the public interest for these documents to be released," the Justice Department wrote in a letter to Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the committee that will first consider Roberts' nomination.

Roberts, who worked on the government's cases in the solicitor general's office during former President Bush's administration, was nominated by President Bush to fill the vacant seat on the high court as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retires.

His nomination has drawn huge interest in Congress, particularly among Democrats concerned about his views on abortion and other controversial issues.

"The administration's decision to shield these documents is an unfortunate turn as the Senate prepares for these confirmation hearings," Leahy said.

In its letter, the department said it will release documents reflecting the Solicitor General's office's final decisions in any case, but internal deliberations among attorneys in the office could not be made public.

"These internal discussions among lawyers have always been considered privileged, covered by both the deliberative process privilege and the attorney-client privilege," the Justice Department wrote.

The Department further stated that it would be difficult to provide those documents without disclosing the confidential communications of many other lawyers who worked with Roberts.

"It would be unfair to all lawyers who serve in the office, and particularly so with respect to those who served with Mr. Roberts," the Department wrote.