Judicial Watch v. Vermont, Howard Dean, et al.
At issue is whether Dr. Howard Dean, former Vermont Governor, former U.S. President hopeful and now leader of the Democratic National Committee, can do an end run around the Vermont Public Access Laws.Judicial Watch sought and was repeatedly denied access to Dean’s gubernatorial records. In an unprecedented move to seek blanket executive privilege, Governor Dean, the Vermont Secretary of State and Vermont’s State Archivist negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding hoping to superceded the State’s Public Access Laws and shield the records from public scrutiny for 10 years. (Dean initially wanted 24 years.) A lawsuit filed on December 3, 2003 names these three individuals. In its lawsuit Judicial Watch seeks access for it, the public and the media to upwards of 450,000 records.At the time, then Governor Dean cited his presidential aspirations as the basis for denying the public access to the records, reportedly telling Vermont Public Radio “Well, there are future political considerations. We didn’t want anything embarrassing appearing in the papers at a critical time in any future endeavor.”Judicial Watch agrees with Vermont Archivist Sanford when he reminded Dean’s legal counsel, David Rocchio, “The open records law (1 V.S.A. ‘315) declares ‘it is in the public interest to enable any person to review and criticize [the officers of the government] decisions even thought such examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment.’ So the scenario we were discussing – use of the gubernatorial records to embarrass a national campaign – is not one covered by Vermont Law.” View the letter.Of course all this begs the question – exactly what is so embarrassing to Howard Dean that he going to such lengths to hide it?On February 13, 2004 the Vermont Superior Court ruled against Dean and the State of Vermont. They appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court who agreed to hear the case.On Monday March 14, 2005, the Vermont Supreme Court heard oral arguments. It was one of several cases that were chosen by the Supreme Court to be heard during their annual Vermont Law School Session in South Royalton, VT. Gravel and Shea, a Vermont law firm, represented Judicial Watch.The Vermont Supreme Court ruled on November 4, 2005 in favor of allowing Dean to keep his governor records secret.
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