Sunday, October 27, 2013

Public Citizen v. United States Department of Justice case brief

Public Citizen v. United States Department of Justice case brief
491 U.S. 440 (1989)

Plaintiff public interest groups appealed from the judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which dismissed their action against defendants, the Justice Department and the American Bar Association (ABA). The public interest groups sought to have the ABA's Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary declared subject to the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), 5 U.S.C.S. app. § 1 et seq.

The President, through the Justice Department, routinely sought the recommendations of the ABA committee in making nominations for appointment of federal judges under U.S. Const. art. II, § 2, cl. 2. The FACA regulated federal advisory committees, imposing certain reporting requirements on them and making their meetings open to the public. The ABA refused the public interest groups' request for information about potential judicial nominees and the groups brought an action seeking to enjoin the Justice Department from utilizing the ABA committee's reports until the ABA complied with the FACA.

  • The Court held that the FACA did not apply to the ABA committee. 
  • The definition of an advisory committee in 5 U.S.C.S. § 3(2)included any committee "utilized" by the President, but the Court looked to the legislative history of the FACA to determine that Congress did not intend a broad meaning to the term. 
  • The Court held that giving it a narrower meaning would allow the Court to avoid consideration of the constitutional issues of whether the FACA impermissibly interfered with the President's power to nominate federal judges or infringed on the First Amendment rights of ABA members.
The court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Recommended Supplements for Administrative Law
Examples & Explanations: Administrative Law, Fourth Edition
Administrative Law and Process: In a Nutshell (Nutshell Series)

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