Cheney v. United States District Court for the District
542 U.S. 367 (2004)
organizations were attempting to get information on the internal meetings
of an Energy Task Force on environmental issues headed by Vice President
was evidence that it was being secretly run by oil industry lobbyists.
suit was brought under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which imposed disclosure requirements
on committees and boards established by the President unless that
committee was composed solely of government employees.
Trial Court had ordered Cheney to turn over to the plaintiffs (one
liberal public interest group, one conservative) the records of the
administration's Energy Task Force. Cheney appealed.
Trial Court held that the Executive Branch could assert executive
privilege, decline to produce the
documents, and submit them to the District Court for a judicial
determination of the appropriateness of that assertion.
argued that the Vice President need not turn over the documents and need
not assert executive privilege, in
order to deny the request to produce the documents.
argued that this was a separation of powers issue, and the Executive Branch didn't need to turn over this sort
of information to other branches of government.
US Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case.
US Supreme Court said, "The Appellate Court labored under the mistaken
assumption that the assertion of executive privilege is a necessary precondition to the
Government's separation of powers objections."
when confronted with a subpoena and a judicial order to produce
documents, the Executive Branch need not invoke a doctrine that would
subject its conduct to judicial review.
Court distinguished this case from United States v. Nixon (418 U.S. 683 (1974)), by saying that civil litigation does not
have the same sense of exigency that criminal cases have.
Court held that instead of requiring Cheney to assert executive
privilege, the lower courts should
have asked whether permitting discovery constituted an unwarranted
impairment of another branch in performance of its constitutional duties.