UNITED STATES NEWS

Court hears arguments over records related to Biden gift of Senate papers to University of Delaware

Jun 14, 2023, 1:30 PM | Updated: 2:00 pm

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The state Supreme Court is mulling whether the University of Delaware was justified in denying requests from Judicial Watch and the Daily Caller News Foundation for records related to the school’s receipt of President Joe Biden’s senatorial papers.

The justices heard arguments for the second time Wednesday in a long-running legal battle over the records, which have been the subject of multiple FOIA requests. That battle is playing out amid increased scrutiny of the handling of government documents by elected officials, including this week’s indictment of former President Donald Trump for allegedly mishandling and retaining classified documents at his Florida estate.

Meanwhile, the discovery of documents with classified markings at Biden’s Delaware home and at his earlier this year for classified documents as part of its investigation into the potential mishandling of government records by Biden.

Biden donated his senatorial papers to his alma mater in 2012, when he was vice president of the United States. The donation includes more than 1,850 boxes of archived papers and 415 gigabytes of electronic records from his 36 years in the Senate. The donation is subject to a gift agreement that prohibits the records from being made publicly available until two years after Biden “retires from public life.”

“This is a colossally important gift of significant public interest,” said Willam Green Jr., an attorney representing Judicial Watch and the Daily Caller News Foundation.

In April 2020, Judicial Watch and the Daily Caller foundation submitted requests under Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act for the gift agreement and records of all communications between the university and Biden’s representatives related to the papers.

The university denied the requests, stating that the records sought were not considered public records under Delaware’s FOIA because they don’t involve the expenditure of state funds by the school, which is privately governed but receives more than $100 million annually in state taxpayer money. The denial was upheld by the office of Delaware’s Democratic attorney general and by a Superior Court judge.

The Delaware Supreme Court overturned the judge’s decision in December 2021 and sent the case back to Superior Court, ruling that the university had not met its burden of proof to justify the denial. The Supreme Court noted that factual assertions by the university were not made under oath and did not describe efforts to identify any responsive documents.

“Unless it is clear on the face of the request that the demanded records are not subject to FOIA, the public body must search for responsive records,” the justices said. “A description of the search and the outcome of the search must be reflected through statements made under oath, such as statements in an affidavit, in order for the public body to satisfy its burden of proof.”

Despite that ruling, the university apparently did not search for any responsive records. Instead, it submitted a sworn affidavit from a university lawyer who said she was told in January 2020 that no state funds had been used in connection with the Biden papers. She was also told that state funds are not used for the school’s email system, over which any relevant communications might have been made.

With the affidavit, the Superior Court judge concluded that the school “performed an adequate search for responsive documents.”

In fact, however, the university submitted no evidence of any search. The affidavit, meanwhile, was based on conversations that took place four months before Judicial Watch and Daily Caller News Foundation even filed their FOIA requests — and almost two years before the Supreme Court ruling.

“The university performed no search related to the requests,” Green argued Wednesday. “It reviewed no documents apart from the gift agreement, but rather relied on previous inquiries of university staff. “

Given the lack of a document search, Justice Abigail LeGrow asked university attorney William Manning how the university’s actions were consistent with the court’s prior ruling.

Manning argued that if the school determined that there was no expenditures of state funds, it was not obligated to conduct a document search. The university, he argued, must demonstrate only how it came to that conclusion. Manning also said it was reasonable for the university to base its conclusion on internal conversations that occurred before the FOIA requests were submitted.

“I think university officials are entitled to make a judgment whether information gained four months earlier was reliable, and they did,” he said.

The court is expected to rule within 90 days.

United States News

Associated Press

Appeals court panel refuses to delay Trump ally Steve Bannon’s 4-month contempt prison sentence

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court panel on Thursday rejected longtime Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon’s bid to stay out of prison while he fights his conviction for defying a subpoena from the House committee that investigated the U.S. Capitol attack. Bannon is supposed to report to prison by July 1 to begin serving […]

6 minutes ago

Associated Press

2 killed in helicopter crash in Washington state, authorities say

BLUESTEM, Wash. (AP) — Two men died in a helicopter crash in eastern Washington state, authorities said. Lincoln County Fire District 6 Chief Brandon Larmer told KREM-TV that the helicopter had two people aboard when it crashed Wednesday afternoon. The men who died were identified Thursday as 68-year-old Ryan Sandvig, of Spokane, and 63-year-old Mark […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Gold bars and Sen. Bob Menendez’s curiosity about their price takes central role at bribery trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors showed jurors at Sen. Bob Menendez ’s trial on Thursday multiple instances when he researched the value of gold as he tried to help a New Jersey businessman who authorities say bribed him with gold and cash. The evidence about the Democrat’s online searches was prominently displayed to a New […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Bill allowing doctor-assisted suicide in Delaware fails in Senate

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A bill allowing doctor-assisted suicide in Delaware failed to win approval in the state Senate on Thursday after narrowly clearing the House earlier this year, but it could come back next week. The legislation failed in the Democrat-led Senate in a 9-9 tie after three members of the Democratic caucus spoke […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Amtrak trains suspended from Philadelphia to New Haven by circuit breaker malfunction

NEW YORK (AP) — Amtrak trains were temporarily suspended Thursday afternoon from Philadelphia to New Haven, Connecticut, by a circuit breaker malfunction, the national rail service said. The technical issue led to a widespread loss of power on the tracks between Penn Station in New York City and Union Station in Newark, New Jersey at […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Witnesses say Ohio man demanded Jeep before he stabbed couple at a Nebraska interstate rest area

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — Witnesses say they heard an Ohio man demand the keys to a Jeep that was being towed behind a Missouri couple’s RV before he brutally stabbed them both and killed the man at an Interstate 80 rest area. James Thompson Jr., 22, was formally charged with first-degree murder and 10 […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

Court hears arguments over records related to Biden gift of Senate papers to University of Delaware