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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

Because no one
is above the law!


Tom Fitton's Judicial Watch Weekly Update

What is Fauci Hiding?

Biden Administration Redacts Fauci and WHO Emails on COVID-19
Judicial Watch Defends Teacher Fired for Facebook Posts Criticizing Violence after Criticizing BLM Riots

Judicial Watch to Court: Gender Quota for Corporate Boards Violates California’s Constitution

Biden Administration Redacts Fauci and WHO Emails on COVID-19

Why does the federal government not want the public to know what Dr. Anthony Fauci or the World Health Organization were communicating about COVID-19?

In May 2020 we sued the Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) for emails about COVID-19, China, and WHO.

The last response of 311 pages of records includes heavily redacted communications from Dr. Fauci and WHO regarding COVID-19.

Certain Fauci emails were redacted, including his personal edits to a COVID-related federal appropriations measure. Emails sent from the WHO were also redacted under a trade secrets exemption.

In a letter with the documents, HHS Freedom of Information Act Officer Gorka Garcia-Malene notes that:

[Freedom of Information Act] Exemption 4 protects from disclosure trade secrets and commercial or financial information that is privileged and confidential. Exemption 5 [under which the Fauci email is redacted] permits the withholding of internal government records which are predecisional and contain staff advice, opinion, and recommendations.

We received the records in response to our May 2020 FOIA lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of the DCNF (Daily Caller News Foundation v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:20-cv-01149)). The lawsuit was filed after HHS failed to respond to the DCNF’s April 1, 2020, FOIA request asking for:

Communications between Dr. Fauci and Deputy Director Lane and World Health Organization officials concerning the novel coronavirus.

Communications of Dr. Fauci and Deputy Director Lane concerning WHO, WHO official Bruce Aylward, WHO Director General Tedros Anhanom, and China.

“The American people have every right to know key information on our government’s role in COVID,” said Neil Patel, Daily Caller News Foundation publisher. “This sort of hiding, dodging and stonewalling is one reason why trust in national authorities is near all-time lows.”

Fauci’s agency is in stonewall mode – and has granted the corrupted WHO a special secrecy exemption from FOIA. In my experience, government secrecy is rarely invoked for good faith reasons – which means that Fauci and his agency should be examined closely. 

Judicial Watch Defends Teacher Fired for Facebook Posts Criticizing Violence after Criticizing BLM Riots

The Left has directly or indirectly seized control of many local governing bodies, particularly school boards and school districts, and it’s using this authority to stifle the First Amendment. 

We filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Palatine, Illinois, tenured high school teacher Jeanne Hedgepeth, who was fired by the suburban-Chicago school district where she had worked for 20 years after posting comments on Facebook criticizing the riots, violence, and shootings in Chicago in the aftermath of the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd. 

Hedgepeth made the posts on her personal Facebook page while vacationing after the end of the school year, just as some of the most severe violence was occurring. In her posts, Hedgepeth recommended studying Thomas Sowell, whom she described as a “treasure” and a “truth seeker,” and praised political commentator and activist Candice Owens and talk show host Larry Elder. She alleges that the firing violated her First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, seeks damages from the school district, Township High School District 211, and district board members and officials who participated directly in the firing (Hedgepeth v. Britton et al. (Case No. 1:21-cv-03890)). We are being assisted by attorney Christine Svenson of Palatine, Illinois.

The lawsuit explains:

In late May and early June 2020, Hedgepeth was vacationing in Florida after the end of the 2019-20 school year when violent street protests, rioting, looting, and shootings erupted in Chicago and many other U.S. cities in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 by Minneapolis police officers. In Chicago alone, 82 persons were shot, 19 fatally, over the May 30-31, 2020 weekend. On May 31, 2020, which the Chicago Sun Times described as the most violent day Chicago had seen in 60 years, Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked Governor J.B. Pritzker to deploy the Illinois National Guard in the city.

That same day, May 31, 2020, Hedgepeth posted the following photos of herself on the beach in Florida along with the comment, “I don’t want to go home tomorrow. Now that the civil war has begun I want to move.”

An individual responded, “Follow your gut! Move!!!!!!!!!”  Hedgepeth answered, “I need a gun and training.” The individual replied, “me too!”

Another individual posted a meme that same day suggesting that the riots could be stopped with a septic tank truck and a pressure cannon. Hedgepeth reposted the meme, obviously in jest, adding, “You think this would work?”

On or about June 1, 2020, Hedgepeth posted the following comment on Facebook in the course of an exchange of posts begun the previous day with a third individual:

I am about facts, truth seeking and love. I will speak on any topic I choose because I live in a free country. I find the term “white privilege” as racist as the “N” word. You have not walked in my shoes either so do not make assumptions about me and my so called privilege. You think America is racist? Then you have been hoodwinked by the white liberal establishment and race baiters like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Travel the world and go see that every nation has racism and some more than others but few make efforts such as we do to mitigate or eliminate it. I have lived and seen. The people I am informed by about the black experience in America are actually some of the smartest people in America. And it so happens they are black. I highly recommend studying Thomas Sowell, who is now retired and in his 80’s. A treasure. A truth seeker. [D]oes REAL research and analysis. Candice Owens is one of the smartest and most courageous women in America and Larry Elders speaks the truth with a great sense of humor and FACTS not feelings. They are who I listen to when it comes to facts about the black experience in America. Don’t you think there is a deeper problem than racism when 50% of murders in America are committed by 13% of the population? Do you think there might be a subtle genocide of black babies when most planned parenthoods are put in poor neighborhoods and that 30% of abortions are black babies. [B]lack women only make up 7% of the U.S. population. The greatest power you have is what you believe about yourself. [W]hat have Democrats, mainstream media and intellectuals in ivory towers been telling the black community to believe about themselves for forty years? Wake up and stop believing them, then things will change.

All of Hedgepeth’s posts were on her personal Facebook page. None of Hedgepeth’s posts identified her as a teacher or a District 211 employee, nor did Hedgepeth post them in her capacity as a teacher or a District 211 employee. None of the persons with whom Hedgepeth exchanged Facebook posts were current District 211 or Palatine High School teachers, staff, or students.

Upon returning from her vacation in early June 2020, Hedgepeth learned that the school district was investigating her for her Facebook posts. She was fired by the school board six weeks later, on July 16, 2020, by a vote of 5-2. In her defense, Hedgepeth noted that the posts were on her personal Facebook page and were made “out of school.” She also expressly invoked her First Amendment rights.

The school district took what could have been a teachable moment about respecting diversity of viewpoints and turned it into a clear civil rights violation. Jeanne Hedgepeth had every right to express herself freely and openly on her personal Facebook page, outside of school, about matters of undeniable public concern. 

Firing her for opposing lawlessness, speaking out about gun rights, praising black conservatives, and criticizing Democrats and tenets of Critical Racial Theory violated the First Amendment, and the school district and district officials who did so will be held accountable.

Ms. Hedgepeth noted on Fox News this week that she couldn’t find a lawyer to help her until Judicial Watch came along. You can see how your support of Judicial Watch not only helps us keep watch and expose government corruption here in DC but helps protect the civil rights of everyday American citizens!

Judicial Watch to Court: Gender Quota for Corporate Boards Violates California’s Constitution

The leftists controlling California legislature has gone quota crazy, wrapping themselves into an unconstitutional, discriminatory pretzel.

You can see this directly in our motion for summary judgment asking a California court to rule that the State’s quota for women on corporate boards is unconstitutional and to permanently enjoin any expenditure of taxpayer funds on the quota. The filings come in the case Robin Crest et al. v. Alex Padilla (No.19STCV27561)).

We filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on August 6, 2019, on behalf of three California taxpayers. The 2018 law, known as Senate Bill 826, requires every publicly held corporation headquartered in California to have at least one director “who self-identifies her gender as a woman” on its board of directors by December 31, 2019. The law requires corporations have up to three such persons on their boards by December 31, 2021, depending on the size of the board. The taxpayers challenging the provision claim that the quota violates the Equal Protection clause of the California Constitution.

In July 2020, the court cleared the way for the case to proceed, holding that our clients had standing under state law to sue.

We argue:

There can be no doubt that SB 826 employs a suspect classification – gender – to differentiate between similarly situated persons – current and prospective members of corporate boards. The Legislature has decided that there are not enough women on corporate boards for its liking, so it has enacted SB 826, which requires that corporations have a minimum number of women on their boards. SB 826 treats current and prospective board members not as individuals, but as members of two groups based on their gender. Women may compete for every position on a corporation’s board, yet men are excluded from competing for those positions reserved for women. No matter how strong a male candidate’s qualifications might be, he is never afforded the opportunity to compete with female candidates for every board position available, but instead must compete only for those board positions for which there is no gender preference. In this regard, SB 826 creates the same type of quota system for seats on corporate boards that was found to be unconstitutional for seats in the medical school class at issue in Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke (1978) 438 U.S. 265, 319-20 (“Bakke”).

Countering the State’s claim that the quota is necessary to “boost the California economy,” “improve opportunities for women in the workplace,” and “protect California taxpayers, shareholders, and retirees,” we argue:

The requirement of necessity is also absent.  Does California really need to impose a gender-based quota on corporate boards to improve its economy? To improve opportunities for women in the workplace?  To protect taxpayers, shareholders, and retirees or improve corporate sustainability or preserve public confidence? Are the tools available to the Legislature really so weak or so limited that it must resort to gender discrimination to achieve these goals?  To state such a claim is to refute it. Nothing in SB 826’s legislative findings or legislative history demonstrate that the Legislature had to resort to a gender-based quota system out of necessity to achieve its goals.

We also argue:

Diversity for diversity’s sake is never constitutional. “‘Preferring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination for its own sake. This the Constitution forbids.’” (Connerly, 92 Cal. App. 4th at 34 (quoting Bakke, 438 U.S. at 307.)) ….

Defendant’s “diversity for diversity’s sake” argument will not save SB 826’s blatantly unconstitutional quota. And of course, asserting that more women on corporate boards will add diversity merely perpetuates gender-based stereotypes about both men and women.

We also demonstrated that the State could provide no evidence of specific, past discrimination by the corporations subject to the law in selecting board members:

The Legislature made no effort to identify specific past or present victims of alleged discrimination or to identify specific perpetrators of such discrimination. No specific victims or perpetrators were identified in SB 826’s legislative findings, and Defendant was unable to identify any such victims or perpetrators in response to interrogatories seeking this specific information…. In response to an interrogatory asking Defendant to identify specific victims of discrimination, Defendant responded generically, identifying “women,” “corporations,” “California taxpayers and retirees,” and “shareholders and investors” as well as “the economy.” … Because SB 826 is not actually remedial and does not restore victims of alleged discrimination to the position they would have occupied absent the discrimination, and because no effort has been made to limit SB 826’s “remedy” to such victims, SB 826 cannot withstand strict scrutiny. Indeed, the blunt instrument of a quota is unlikely to ever satisfy this standard.

In signing SB 826 in September 2018, then-Governor Brown wrote that “serious legal concerns have been raised” to the legislation. “I don’t minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation.” He signed the bill anyway, noting, “Nevertheless, recent events in Washington, D.C. – and beyond – make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.”

There are currently 625 publicly traded corporations headquartered in California that are subject to the quota. In a March 2020 report, California’s Secretary of State identified 282 corporations that reported compliance with the quota.

Not a single dime of California’s taxpayer’s money should be going to support a law that requires sex discrimination. The ‘Women on Corporate Boards’ statute is not only unconstitutional, but morally wrong. Our California taxpayer clients are asking the courts to uphold California’s Constitution which prohibits sex discrimination.

In September 2020, we also filed a related taxpayer lawsuit to prevent California from enforcing Assembly Bill 979, which requires the same corporation subject to the gender-based quota also satisfy racial, ethnic, sexual preference and transgender status quotas by the end of the 2021 calendar year

In January 2021, we filed a public comment with the Securities and Exchange Commission in response to a proposed rule change requiring race and gender quotas on the boards of corporations listed on the Nasdaq exchange.

Until next week …