Tuesday, February 18, 2003
High Court to Consider FOIA Case Involving Photos of Vincent Foster
By a MetNews Staff Writer
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider this week whether to hear a case in which a Los Angeles attorney is seeking to obtain photos taken of presidential lawyer Vincent Foster’s corpse by the U.S. Park Police in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The court reported on its website that papers regarding the requests for review of last June’s unpublished Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Favish v. Office of Independent Counsel had been distributed for consideration at the court’s conference this Friday. A decision on whether to hear the case could be announced as early as next Monday, the first sitting of the court following a month-long recess.
The Ninth Circuit, in its second decision in the case, ruled that only four of 10 disputed photos covered by Allan J. Favish’s request need be made public by Independent Counsel Julie Thomas, who is wrapping up the work previously overseen by Kenneth Starr and Robert Ray.
Favish, Thomas, and members of Foster’s family are all seeking review of the Ninth Circuit ruling. Favish has previously received more than 100 photographs related to the Foster investigation from the OIC
Favish had appealed a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge William Keller of the Central District of California, limiting disclosure to five photos. The OIC, as well as Sheila Foster Anthony and Lisa Foster Moody, cross-appealed, arguing that release of any of the photos would violate the family’s right to privacy.
Moody is Foster’s widow, and married a federal judge after his death. Anthony, the late attorney’s sister, was an appointee of President Clinton to the Federal Trade Commission and is the wife of a former congressman.
The panel largely agreed with Keller, except that it allowed the OIC to withhold one of the five photos that the district judge ordered disclosure of. Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain and Senior Judge John T. Noonan joined in the order, while Judge Harry Pregerson dissented, as he had in the previous appeal, arguing that only one photo should be released.
That photo, which shows Foster clutching the gun with which he is believed to have killed himself, was leaked to the media and published in 1994.
The OIC originally succeeded in persuading Keller that none of the photographs—taken in Washington’s Fort Marcy Park after Foster’s body was discovered there in 1993—should be made public. But the Ninth Circuit reversed that 1998 order in July 2000, ruling that Keller had erred in ruling without actually looking at the photos, and directed that he examine them and make a separate determination as to each one whether the privacy interests of the family outweighed the public interest in disclosure.
On remand, Keller said that while he “commiserate[d]” with the family members, he was required by the Ninth Circuit ruling to strike a balance. He said that five of the photos were so “graphic, explicit, and extremely upsetting” that they should not be released into the public domain, but that the rest should be disclosed.
Favish claims there may have been a cover-up concerning Foster’s demise. Physical evidence, Favish and others have argued, supports the notion that Foster may have been murdered, and/or that his body was moved to the park, where it was found on July 20, 1993.
Foster was a deputy White House counsel and onetime Arkansas law partner of now-U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and was said to be despondent about life in official Washington.
Favish† has said he expects to release the photos on his website, www.allanfavish.com, which already contains a great deal of information about the Foster.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company