A federal judge said Thursday he would give the Bush administration an extra three weeks before it must produce documents -- or identify which papers should remain confidential -- from Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force.
The documents are being sought in connection with a lawsuit seeking information on what outside groups influenced the task force as it prepared an energy policy report in early 2001.
The Justice Department revealed in documents filed with the court this week that the White House had reviewed only two of 12 boxes of task force documents, although it had been ordered last August to produce the documents by Tuesday, or list those that it believes should be withheld on constitutional grounds.
At a hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said that since the administration -- despite the delays -- appears to have shown some “good faith compliance,” he was willing to extend the deadline. He did not set a specific date.
At the same time, Sullivan made clear he is all but certain to reject a government request to put the case on hold, pending a formal appeal of his order to produce the papers.
Sullivan repeatedly told government lawyers at the hearing Thursday that he was not inclined to go along with such a request.
The judge is expected to make a formal decision on the request for a stay, as well as announce a new deadline for the documents, at another hearing scheduled for today.
In a three-page court filing this week, the administration said it had sorted through 10,000 e-mails to find several thousand messages about the Cheney task force. It said it had 12 boxes of documents pertaining to the group, but only two of the boxes had been examined to determine what items could be made public.
The case involves a consolidation of two lawsuits, one filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, and another by the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group.