Cheney Task Force Supreme Court Case Gets Underway

Court watchers hoping to witness fireworks or heated accusations about duck hunting or energy-executive cuddling were sorely disappointed by the kickoff yesterday of the Supreme Court case regarding Vice President Dick Cheney’s infamous energy task force. Opening arguments — by Cheney’s lawyer Ted Olson and lawyers from the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch, which brought the original suit — were dense with jargon and complex reasoning about sometimes-obscure legislation and constitutional powers. The core issue is whether Cheney’s task force was composed entirely of executive branch officials or whether, instead, the energy-company executives consulted by the task force were de facto members. If the latter, the task force is subject to federal transparency rules. On that score, justices seemed sympathetic to the administration’s case. However, to rule on that issue they must conclude that the court has jurisdiction over the case, itself a convoluted legal issue. If it does not, the case is bounced back to a lower court, the discovery order issued by a previous appeals court judge stands, and Cheney, in effect, loses. A final ruling is not expected until June — stay tuned.