Supreme Court

House Judiciary Committtee Asks Supreme Court to Delay Arguments in Case Seeking Grand Jury Materials

The prospects of a new Congress and a new Administration justifies delaying the case.

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Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives asked the Supreme Court to reschedule oral arguments in Department of Justice v. House Committee on the Judiciary, concerning whether the House's efforts to obtain grand jury material from the Mueller investigation. The precise question before the Court is whether an impeachment trial before a legislative body is a "judicial proceeding" under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which would justify the disclosure of such material. The Justice Department, which has custody of the grand jury materials from the Mueller investigation, has refused to provide them to the House Judiciary Committee.

The case is currently scheduled for arguments on December 2. This means that even were the Court to decide the case expeditiously, there would be a new Congress and a new President before the case is resolved. As noted in the House's motion:

The Committee's investigations into misconduct by President Trump, oversight of agency activities during the Trump Administration, and consideration of related legislative reforms have remained ongoing. But a new Congress will convene in the first week of January 2021, and President-elect Biden will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021. Once those events occur, the newly constituted Committee will have to determine whether it wishes to continue pursuing the application for the grand-jury materials that gave rise to this case.

According to the motion, the Justice Department is expected to file a response. Presumably, the Department will oppose the motion, which may simply delay the inevitable, as a new administration might adopt a different interpretation of the Federal Rules.

Under the circumstances, including the possibility that the case could become moot if one or both sides to the dispute changes their positions, it would seem totally appropriate to reschedule the argument. We will see whether the Court agrees.

NEXT: State Election Results 2020

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  1. If the house can hold out until after Biden takes office the the DOJ will drop its attempt to prevent the house from getting the requested material.

    1. On the contrary, I suspect it’s dead.

      1. Well that sounds like Congress. It’s a dead squirrel.

    2. Not necessarily: DOJ has generally taken a pretty restrictive view of Rule 6(e), most of the plausible AG candidates I’ve seen being floated are definite institutionalists, and the political value of this information is likely to decline dramatically pretty soon.

  2. Tje basis of the motion is Primarily Biden’s election. Would it be prudent for the Supreme Court to acknowledge Biden’s election in this case when it has cases disputing the election that are likely to get appealed to it?

    Can thwy grant the motion without acknowledging his election?

    Perhaps they might want to sit on it until they’ve disposed of the election appeals and then reschedule.

    1. Yes, it does seem odd.

      All sorts of (fairly unlikely) things could happen before 20 January, which might prevent Biden becoming President. Moreover, it has been known since the case was filed that the House would change some of its members on 3 Jan 2020, and that there might be a new President on 20 Jan 2020. All that has changed is the probabilities. And not by all that much, since the Dems were always overwhelming favorities to win the House and ditto Biden the Presidency.

      Is this the sort of thing the courts normally do – ie postpone a hearing at the request of one party, aganst the opposition of the other, on the basis of estimates as to what might happen over the next few months ?

  3. My two cents sez the case should not be delayed simply because of who’s president or which party controls Congress (or the House).

    The ruling must apply regardless of which person/party is in control.

    Additionally, the Supreme Court should rule against the House simply because an impeachment is NOT a criminal trial and therefore the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure should not apply.

    1. I agree but I’m confident the Chief Justice doesn’t.

      There are many things Roberts can fairly be accused of, but not knowing how to kick a can down the road is not one of them.

  4. The Dem House is looking for a way to drop the case without prejudice.

  5. How can an impeachment, a political action, be considered a judicial action?

    1. Just whip up some originalism style historical analysis. A letter Congressman Egbert Benson wrote to his mother-in-law in 1793 wherein he referred to impeachment as a judicial action.

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