Judicial Watch: Hearing Set in Lawsuit against U.S. Capitol Police Seeking Videos and Emails from January 6 Protest at the U.S. Capitol
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today announced that the federal court in Washington, DC has ordered a hearing in the lawsuit against the U.S. Capitol Police seeking videos and emails concerning the protest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 (Judicial Watch v. United States Capitol Police (No. 1:21-cv-00401)).
Judicial Watch brought its lawsuit under the common law right of access to public records. The hearing will be held before U.S District Court Judge Ana C. Reyes on August 15 at 1:00 pm ET.
Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in February 2021 after the US Capitol Police refused to provide any records in response to a January 21, 2021, request seeking:
- Email communications between the U.S. Capitol Police Executive Team and the Capitol Police Board concerning the security of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The timeframe of this request is from January 1, 2021, through January 10, 2021.
- Email communications of the Capitol Police Board with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security concerning the security of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. The timeframe of this request is from January 1, 2021through January 10, 2021.
- All video footage from within the Capitol between 12 pm and 9 pm on January 6, 2021.
Through its police department, Congress argues that the videos and emails are not public records, there is no public interest in their release, and that “sovereign immunity” prevents citizens from suing for their release.
In opposing the USCP’s broad assertion of secrecy, Judicial Watch details Supreme Court and other precedents that upholds the public’s right to know what “their government is up to:”
In ‘the courts of this country’ – including the federal courts – the common law bestows upon the public a right of access to public records and documents” … “the Supreme Court was unequivocal in stating that there is a federal common law right of access ‘to inspect and copy public records and documents.’” … “[T]he general rule is that all three branches of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, are subject to the common law right.” The right of access is “a precious common law right . . . that predates the Constitution itself.
The Court of Appeals for this circuit has recognized that “openness in government has always been thought crucial to ensuring that the people remain in control of their government….” “Neither our elected nor our appointed representatives may abridge the free flow of information simply to protect their own activities from public scrutiny. An official policy of secrecy must be supported by some legitimate justification that serves the interest of the public office.
“The U.S. Capitol Police continues to hide these key January 6 videos and emails from the American people. It is particularly frustrating that the new House Republican leadership has allowed the Capitol Police to continue to defend this secrecy, which was first pushed under the Pelosi Congress in federal court,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.