New Filing Details State Dept.’s Efforts to “Evade Liability” for Unlawful Commission Aimed at Undercutting Universal Protections for Women, LGBTQI Individuals

State Dept.’s Legal Violations “Irreparably Stain The Commission’s Work”; Trump Administration Must Be Prohibited from Relying on the July 16th Report

New York, N.Y. — On behalf of a coalition of human rights organizations, Democracy Forward pressed forward with its suit to shutter Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department’s unlawful Commission on Unalienable Rights, which was created and has operated in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). Four groups — Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), the Council for Global Equality, and the Global Justice Center — sued the Trump administration for failing to operate transparently as required by law and for stacking the Commission with members who have staked out positions that run counter to fundamental human rights principles and that threaten LGBTQI and reproductive rights.

In this latest filing, the groups rebut the State Department’s attempts to evade accountability for its unlawful Commission after Secretary Pompeo and the Department “ran roughshod over the procedures for establishing advisory committees set forth in the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

Among the administration’s ill-founded legal arguments are that the court lacks jurisdiction to rule in this case, that the biased composition of the Commission doesn’t matter, and that the Department’s various failures to comply with FACA can be rectified by last-minute, partial disclosure of records.

But, as the groups state, the Department’s violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act cannot be overlooked. Indeed, they “irreparably stain the Commission’s work. As such, the Commission should be shuttered, and Secretary Pompeo and the State Department should be prevented from relying on any of its work.

In response to public pressure and this litigation, the State Department released some of the Commission’s records to the public and announced early this month, without sufficient notice to the public, that it would release the Commission’s “proposed” report during a meeting with Secretary Pompeo on July 16, with a two-week public comment period to follow the release. These paltry steps cannot cure the fundamental defects of the Commission’s creation or the lawlessness of its operation. As the groups made clear last month: “The Commission’s report — designed to erode human rights protections — is the fruit of a poisonous tree.” It, along with the Commission that has drafted it, should be disbanded, and the State Department barred from using or relying on its findings.

Last month, a coalition of human rights organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the legal challenge to the Commission. This lawsuit is but the latest challenge in a string of lawsuits over the Trump administration’s pattern of illegally outsourcing policymaking to outside groups in violation of federal law.

Learn more about the suit here. The Plaintiffs’ final brief in support of their request for summary judgment was filed on July 7, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Read it in full here.

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Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

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Charisma Troiano
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