Fast and Furious Lawsuit Settlement Talks Deteriorate
By Elizabeth Murphy | January 10, 2013 4:41 pm

Settlement negotiations have deteriorated in a federal lawsuit over Operation Fast and Furious, lawyers told a Washington, D.C., federal judge on Thursday.

The lawsuit, lodged by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, seeks to force the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder to hand over a number of department documents related to the botched gun-walking operation.

At a status conference this morning, general counsel for the House told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that the hope a settlement can be reached is beginning to look dim.

“I’m not encouraged by where the parties stand,” said Kerry Kircher, House counsel, according to a report by Bloomberg.

Kircher told the judge he didn’t believe court-administered mediation would be of any help either.

The Justice Department, however, remained more hopeful about a settlement.

“We remain somewhat more optimistic ” said Ian Gershengorn, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, according to the report.

Gershengorn said he believed it was too early to move to a mediation phase, adding that settlement talks between the two parties could still yield a positive result.

At a hearing in November, both sides said they had just begun settlement talks. At the end of the year, the House added a special provision to allow the committee, lead by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to continue its lawsuit against the department.

President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over the withheld documents in the summer, sparking controversy about whether the president was within his rights to do so for documents not directly related to White House deliberations.  The House voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress in June, but the Justice Department refused to enforce the subpoena.  Issa and his committee then decided to take the issue to the courts.

Holder has called the proceedings and his contempt charge political gamesmanship.

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