Kim Zetter of Threat Level reports on how the government’s motion to vacate prior rulings in Horn v. Huddle may seriously impact other pending cases such as al-Haramain v. Obama.
In Horn v. Huddle, the government settled a 15-year old lawsuit filed by a former DEA agent who claimed he was subjected to illegal eavesdropping. But as part of the settlement, Horn agreed not to oppose the government’s motion to vacate previous rulings in the case by the D.C. courts.
“The opinions will be a valuable resource for litigants and courts as these issues arise in other cases,” the lawyers wrote in their brief (.pdf) Friday.
The Justice Department is “willing to pay absolute top dollar [in the D.C. case] to get out from some very damaging opinions” says Jon Eisenberg, attorney for the plaintiffs in the Al-Haramain case. “They are desperate to make the decisions go away and to deprive me of the ability to cite those decisions in the future.”
Although district court opinions aren’t binding elsewhere, they are regularly published and cited in other cases.
The D.C. rulings could help convince the California court to let plaintiffs view and use the classified document in their case, Eisenberg says. He notes that the D.C. rulings could be particularly persuasive to the San Francisco judge in the Al-Haramain case because they come from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, head of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court until 2002, who is overseeing the coffee table case. The intelligence court is responsible for approving government requests for wiretaps and other types of surveillance in the U.S. in cases involving foreign spying and terrorism.
“When Judge Lamberth speaks on a matter of national security, people listen,” Eisenberg told Threat Level.
Read more on Threat Level.