A federal judge pointed to “evidence of government wrong-doing and bad faith” as rationale Tuesday for granting limited discovery to conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch in a federal lawsuit concerning Hillary Clinton’s emails.
U.S. District Court judge Royce Lamberth issued the ruling in favor of Judicial Watch, which is suing the State Department for talking points drafted for former UN ambassador Susan Rice prior to TV appearances she made following the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi.
Lamberth’s order for limited discovery is the second granted by a federal judge in Judicial Watch’s favor. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan granted the group limited discovery last month in another State Department lawsuit. Judicial Watch hopes to depose eight Clinton aides and State Department officials in that case.
In the Benghazi talking points lawsuit, the federal government has argued that it conducted a thorough and good faith search of State Department records.
But that search did not include Clinton’s emails, which the former secretary of state gave to the State Department in Dec. 2014. The State Department claimed in court papers filed last year that it was not required to search Clinton’s emails for relevant records because they were not in the agency’s possession when Judicial Watch filed its lawsuit.
But Lamberth indicated that the State Department should have known that Clinton’s emails existed.
“Where there is evidence of government wrong-doing and bad faith, as here, limited discovery is appropriate, even though it is exceedingly rare in FOIA cases,” Lamberth wrote in the new court papers.
“The government argues that this does not show a lack of good faith, but that is what remains to be seen, and the factual record must be developed appropriately for the Court to make that determination,” he continued, also referring to Clinton’s private email system as “extraordinary and exclusive.”
Clinton used a personal email account and a private server throughout her State Department tenure.
“This remarkable decision will allow Judicial Watch to explore the shifting stories and misrepresentations made by the Obama State Department and its current and former employees,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in a statement.