A three-judge federal appeals court panel on Friday overturned an order for Hillary Clinton to sit for a deposition over her use of a private email server for government work while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
This original FOIA lawsuit expanded when Judicial Watch learned in March 2015 that Clinton had used a private email server for government work during her 4 years at the State Department.
Washington District Court Judge Royce Lamberth, who was assigned the FOIA case in 2014, subsequently ordered a discovery plan in December 2018 to investigate whether Clinton had intentionally used a private email server to evade FOIA; whether the State Department’s attempts to settle the case in late 2014 and early 2015 “amounted to bad faith;” and whether the State Department adequately searched for records in response to Judicial Watch’s initial request.
Clinton and Mills subsequently filed petitions to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on March 13 seeking to block the ordered depositions. The circuit judges on Friday unanimously granted Clinton’s request but denied Mills’s. The appeals court panel noted that Mills had other ways to appeal her deposition that were not available to Clinton.
The appeals court also accused the district court of an “abuse of discretion” in ordering the discovery.
“The mere suspicion of bad faith on the part of the government cannot be used as a dragnet to authorize voluminous discovery that is irrelevant to the remaining issues in a case,” Judge Robert Wilkins, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, wrote in the decision. Judges Cornelia Pillard, another Obama appointee, and Thomas Griffith, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, joined in the decision.
Wilkins also wrote that Clinton “has already answered interrogatories from Judicial Watch on these very questions” in a separate FOIA case between Judicial Watch and the State Department, overseen by District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton. In that case, Clinton provided written responses and explained that “the sole reason she used the private account was for convenience,” Wilkins wrote.
Wilkins further noted that Congress, the FBI, and the State Department have also investigated Clinton’s email situation.
Clinton’s attorney David Kendall, when asked to comment on the ruling, told media outlets in an email, “The Court’s opinion speaks for itself.”
The State Department began its review of the emails in December 2014 but suspended its inquiry at the FBI’s direction in March 2016. The department resumed the inquiry in July 2016 after the FBI completed its investigation. After pausing briefly after the FBI discovered additional emails and reopened the investigation in August 2016, the State Department inquiry proceeded uninterrupted for 38 months. The State Department’s review didn’t include the thousands of emails subpoenaed by Congress but deleted by Clinton’s server administrator.