Countless lawsuits where the United States is a party are now in limbo, thanks to the fact that the Justice Department lacks the resources to litigate them so long as the government is shut down. One of these lawsuits is a nearly two year old case brought by House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) seeking to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for failing to turn over documents Issa believes will prove embarrassing to the Obama Administration.
Yet, unlike numerous other lawsuits that were stayed while the Justice Department waits for the shutdown to end, Issa believes that he should not have to live with one of the consequences of the shutdown he and his fellow House Republicans are responsible for — he filed a motion claiming that DOJ’s “Contingency Plan provides that Department employees may continue to work on matters necessary to the discharge of the President’s constitutional duties and powers,” and that his lawsuit qualifies.
Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson was not amused by this motion:
There are no exigent circumstances in this case that would justify an order of the Court forcing furloughed attorneys to return to their desks. Moreover, while the vast majority of litigants who now must endure a delay in the progress of their matters do so due to circumstances beyond their control, that cannot be said of the House of Representatives, which has played a role in the shutdown that prompted the stay motion.
If Issa would like his lawsuit to proceed, he can help lift Jackson’s stay by announcing he will vote to end the shutdown and pressuring Boehner to bring a clean bill funding the government to the House floor.