“Trust everybody, but cut the cards.” Thus began the opinion of Judge Jed Rakoff, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, ordering the U.S. Department of Justice to release some of the contents of four emails sent between federal officials and their lawyers. The judge ordered the information to be released by February 13, 2012. The judge issued his opinion in response to a lawsuit filed by several immigrants’ rights groups.
In a case argued before the Supreme Court in 2009, Nken v. Holder, 129 S. Ct. 1749 (2009), attorneys representing the U.S. government stated to the Supreme Court that aliens deported from the United States while their appeals are still pending, and who later win their court cases, will be allowed to return to the United States and to get back the immigration status that they had prior to their deportation.
The plaintiffs in the New York case had filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking documents related to the U.S. government’s procedures for bring back deported aliens who later won their court cases on appeal. In response, the U.S. government issued a series of emails, but most of the information was redacted, or blacked out.
Government lawyers made several arguments in defense of the decision not to release the information contained in the emails. Judge Rakoff rejected all of them, and ordered the government to release certain information from each of the four emails.