In a case that is being heard in federal court, the Obama administration has refused to turn over the names of people who used its online judicial search service to determine whether to hold a hearing in their cases.
The names are already public in the judicial search data of every federal district court in the country, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has sued the administration to force it to comply.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center has argued that the names, as well as the dates, could be publicly accessible and that the public should have access to that data.
Illinois’ Supreme Court ruled in April that the state’s data was in the public domain.
The Obama administration filed an emergency motion asking the court to deny the request and to vacate the ruling that upheld the state data.
The judge in the case is John Lott, a Republican who has been on the bench for more than 20 years.
He is appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, and his judicial nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is controlled by Democrats.
The White House is expected to respond to the emergency motion.
The American Civil Rights Union of California is representing the ACLU in the federal lawsuit.
“The American people are entitled to know what kind of court is being used to rubber stamp the Obama judicial agenda,” said Jessica Rich, the deputy director of the ACLU of Illinois.
“We will be watching this case closely and asking whether the Obama government has abandoned its constitutional obligation to protect people’s right to due process.”
The Obama Administration has faced questions about its role in the use of judicial search information for the past several years, and questions about whether it is following the legal advice of the National Institute of Justice.
In December, the Office of Legal Counsel, the federal government’s legal adviser, wrote to the administration asking it to provide the names and dates of judicial hearings, but it has refused.
A Justice Department spokeswoman told the Associated Press on Thursday that it is “reviewing the matter.”
The Illinois Judicial Review Board said that in its request to the government, the group did not request the names but requested the names “as an example of the types of judicial proceedings that are conducted in Illinois.”
The order from the Illinois Judicial review board also does not mention that the Obama Justice Department has said in court filings that the name-and-date information is in the private records of the state court system.
The court’s decision does not address whether the names were public at the time they were submitted.
It is unclear what information is included in the request, or what other information the federal agency requested.
“When it comes to public records, Illinois law requires that the records be made available to the public, and public records are the public’s right of access to information,” said Amy Jaffe, a lawyer at the American Association of University Women.
“In a free society, citizens have a right to know if they have a judge’s name or date of birth, as they do for other legal documents and public documents.”