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Separation of Powers

House Legal Arm, Led by Veteran D.C. Firm Partner, Files Contempt Suit

Posted Mar 10, 2008 11:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: A lawsuit (PDF) filed today by the House of Representatives seeks to enforce subpoenas against two Bush aides, the Washington Post reports.

The complaint was drafted by Irvin Nathan, a former chairman of Arnold & Porter's white-collar practice who jumped from the law firm to head the House General Counsel's Office, Legal Times reports. The suit seeks testimony and documents from White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers regarding the firing of nine U.S. attorneys.

The Bush administration has asserted the officials are protected by executive privilege. U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey had declined to refer the House’s contempt charges against the pair to a grand jury.

The House General Counsel’s Office hasn’t filed any lawsuit in nearly a decade and has never filed a direct civil suit against the White House to enforce subpoenas, the story says. The last lawsuit, filed in 1998, challenged a Census Bureau sampling plan that Republicans feared would unfairly boost minority population numbers.

Nathan formerly worked for the House Judiciary Committee investigating the firings of the U.S. attorneys, prompting criticism that he is too partisan for the new job.

The administration is likely to argue that Congress has no standing to sue and the courts shouldn’t intervene in what is a political controversy.

Updated at 10:45 a.m. to add that the lawsuit was filed today. Originally posted at 6:45 a.m.

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