Judge orders U.S. Department of Justice officials to testify

Friday, June 2, 2006

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has ordered four U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials to give testimony after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Judge Emmet Sullivan granted a motion for discovery by CREW to serve depositions to James Kovaka and Steve Brady, both attorneys with the DOJ responsible for processing FOIA requests in the case. Also ordered to provide testimony were Daniel Metcalfe, head of the DOJ'S Office of Information and Privacy, and Robert McCallum, Associate Attorney General whose nomination as U.S. ambassador to Australia is currently pending in the Senate.

CREW sued after the DOJ failed to respond to the group request for information for close to a year. The request relates to the DOJ's lowering of the government penalty request from $130 billion to $10 billion in the landmark case United States of America v. Philip Morris Incorporated, et al., which CREW believes to be politically motivated.

CREW specifically requested the DOJ to disclose contacts between McCallum and his former law firm, which the group says represented the tobacco companies. McCallum is also before a different court with 5 other justice department officials in a trial where they are accused of ethics violations relating to a case involving North American Indians.