Appeals Court Rules JW Can Bring Lawsuit against Commerce Department over Security and Prosperity Partnership
OCTOBER 15, 2009
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has overturned the district court and ruled that Judicial Watch has standing to bring a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce related to the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), which was set up under the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America. Judicial Watch argues the NACC is subject to the open meetings law known as Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and must make its meetings open to the public and must release records relating to those meetings.
The following is excerpted from the appellate ruling:
To satisfy the constitutional standing requirement, familiar doctrine requires a plaintiff to allege an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct and that will likely be redressed by a favorable decision on the merits. Here the injury requirement is obviously met. In the context of a FACA claim, an agency’s refusal to disclose information that the act requires be revealed constitutes a sufficient injury…As Judicial Watch has standing to pursue its FACA claim, and the merits remain an open question, the judgment of the district court is reversed and the case is Remanded.
On March 23, 2005, heads of government Vicente Fox, George W. Bush, and Paul Martin launched the North American partnership at a meeting in Waco, Texas, with the expressed goal of “a safer, more prosperous North America.” Proponents of the partnership claim its purpose is to increase security and prosperity for all three nations through enhanced cooperation. Critics maintain the partnership will sacrifice U.S. sovereignty.
The American component of the NACC is made up of key corporations and was set up by the government through the U.S. Chamber of Congress. The NACC has provided over 50 recommendations for action on a wide range of issues impacting all American citizens. Judicial Watch wishes to gain membership to the group and gain access to documents about its meetings and activities. The NACC most recently provided recommendations to the North American Leaders Summit, which is now what the SPP is called by the Obama administration.
“We are very pleased with this decision and we look forward to the opportunity to finally make our case in court,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Our objective with this lawsuit is simple: to bring as much transparency as possible to the proceedings of this government-private program. In the spirit of President Obama’s promise to provide ‘unprecedented’ levels of transparency to the inner-workings of government, the Commerce Department should stop stonewalling and open these meetings and documents up to the American people as soon as possible.”
In litigation that wound its way to the United State Supreme Court, Judicial Watch had previously challenged the Cheney Energy Task Force under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. And Hillary Clinton’s Health Care Task Force also faced a challenge under this open meetings law.