Thursday, February 28, 2002

Who is Gladys Kessler?

More importantly, why should you care? Because she is the federal district court judge who has ruled that the Department of Energy must release records to an environmental organization, the National Resources Defense Council.

What does the NRDC want?
"The significance of this information for us is that it is going to expose the Bush energy plan's purpose as a payback to polluters," said NRDC attorney Sharon Buccino. "The plan benefited Enron and other big energy companies while doing nothing for public health and the environment."
Gosh, I thought you were supposed to get the documents first before you reached such conclusions...

Gladys Kessler is a Clinton appointee to the federal bench who has already figured in a number of decisions which favor Democrats. And from the following you might think she respects privacy concerns:
Kessler accepted the arguments by AFL-CIO counsel Michael Trister that the publication of the documents would violate the right of "privacy" that is so frequently invoked by liberal litigators. Using Trister's language, she ordered the FEC "not to disclose or otherwise make available to the public or to any individual requester (including Congress, any member thereof or any other government agency) any portion of the investigative files in matters under review."
The context was an investigation into illegal coordination between labor unions and the Democrats in the 1996 elections. She has also favored the National Education Association (NEA), which is inseparable from the Democrats and claims to have spent nothing on political activities.

She supported the stance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in banning health claims not specifically approved by the FDA (but don't confuse her with David Kessler, another Democrat who once headed the FDA).
Judge Kessler concludes that "No one is more qualified for the task of determining whether significant scientific agreement exists among experts, than the experienced scientists at the FDA."

She ruled that Bush's appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights could not be seated, based on a truly fanciful interpretation of the relevant law. She has permitted the govt to proceed with a lawsuit against the tobacco companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes, which is a clear violation of the original intent of the law. She has ruled against abortion protesters in a way that does not apply to other protesters.

She has dealt with govt secrecy issues before, involving the IRS, the FBI and the U.S. Forest Service. The IRS decision ruled against releasing certain generic IRS documents, thus favoring tax collectors over the rest of us. The FBI decision involved allegations of abuse in FBI crime labs, which is a nonpartisan issue. The Forestry Service decision involved protecting lynx habitat - you might recall a recent scandal about that.

The professional protesters among us might complain of a ruling against protesters at President Bush's inauguration, but the restrictions weren't exactly onerous. She also ruled against Puerto Rico in a decision involving training at Vieques.

On balance I think there are grounds for suspecting partisanship here. But on the other hand, the papers affected by the ruling don't appear to be the ones Dick Cheney is withholding.

I wonder if she'll get a shot at this case.

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