Judicial Watch is an American conservative non-partisan watchdog group that files Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits to investigate alleged misconduct by government officials. Founded in 1994, it has sued the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Most of its lawsuits have been dismissed. As of October 2016 it was the plaintiff in more than 20 ongoing lawsuits involving Hillary Clinton.
Judicial Watch was founded in 1994 by attorney and right-wing activist Larry Klayman, who hired the current president Tom Fitton before leaving in 2003 Klayman has since accused Fitton of claiming credit for the early successes of Judicial Watch.
Following Hillary Clinton's admission on March 3, 2015 that she had used a private email account during her time as Secretary of State, Judicial Watch proceeded to file ten FOIA lawsuits against the State Department seeking the records that she had turned over to them. Filed from March 4 to March 9, 2015, the lawsuits sought to obtain "any and all emails sent or received by Clinton during her time as Secretary of State", communications between government employees regarding her use of a non-government email, the number and names of employees at the State Department who used a non-government email account to conduct business, and records pertaining to the policies used to make sure such emails were searched for responsiveness to FOIA requests. Judicial Watch also requested that previously closed cases be re-opened on the grounds that in light of the private account, a reasonable search of those records hadn't been conducted.
After this initial set of lawsuits the U.S. District Court agreed to re-open two Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuits that had been closed a year prior, a move considered unprecedented by the organization. They would also proceed to file further FOIA lawsuits seeking information on former Secretary Clinton's use of an iPhone and iPad for official business, the metadata of the emails turned over to the State Department, the nature of Bryan Pagliano's hiring to manage Clinton's private server, and whether Secretary Clinton had received mandatory training on handling classified information. Judicial Watch has currently filed twenty FOIA lawsuits involving the former Secretary's emails.
On February 8, 2015 the FBI confirmed it was investigating Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State. The Bureau was forced to formally acknowledge the investigation due to an ongoing FOIA lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch. The FBI had previously declined to confirm or deny the existence of the Clinton probe.
A federal judge ruled on February 23, 2016 that top aides to Hillary Clinton could be questioned under oath by Judicial Watch about her use of a private email server as secretary of state. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan granted Judicial Watch's motion for discovery into whether the State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deliberately thwarted the Freedom of Information Act by using a private email server to obscure her communications from public records requests.
In a separate case, on March 29, 2016 U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth granted Judicial Watch limited discovery, citing potential bad faith by the government in responding to requests for documents related to talking points provided to Susan Rice in response to the Benghazi attack
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The bulk of Judicial Watch’s cases involve transparency in government and government integrity, and the organization has taken positions on a wide range of issues.
Judicial Watch is conservative and avows a belief in limited government, individual liberty, the free market, traditional values, and a strong national defense. However, Judicial Watch recognizes that corruption is nonpartisan and non-ideological.
Judicial Watch uses litigation as its primary tool.
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