Judge in transgender troops lawsuit knocks administration for withholding information

Judge in transgender troops lawsuit knocks administration for withholding information
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A federal judge Friday knocked the Trump administration for withholding information from those suing it over the transgender military ban as she declined to make a ruling on the case.

In an order issued Friday, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied both the defendant’s and the plaintiff’s motions for summary judgment, which is when a judge makes a ruling on case without a full trial.

Rather than granting either party’s motion for summary judgment, she concluded, “the court will allow plaintiffs the opportunity to complete discovery.”

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In a memo accompanying the order, Kollar-Kotelly wrote that she denied the motions because material facts are still in dispute about the process by which the administration crafted its transgender policy because the government is not giving the plaintiffs the information it is entitled to as part of the discovery process.

“Defendants claim that their decisions regarding transgender military service are owed great deference because they are the product of extensive deliberation, study and review,” wrote Kollar-Kotelly, an appointee of former President Clinton. “However, at the same time, defendants have withheld information concerning this deliberation, study and review from plaintiffs. As a result, there undeniably are factual disputes in this case.”

The opinion came in a lawsuit filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) on behalf of five unnamed service members and two recruits.

The suit is one of four that have been filed since Trump first announced on Twitter in July 2017 his intention to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

No new transgender policy can go into effect, as courts in each case have issued preliminary injunctions that require the Pentagon to continue allowing open service while the lawsuits work their way through the court system.

Earlier in August, Kollar-Kotelly ruled against the administration’s motion to lift the injunction against the ban and dismiss the case. The administration argued the case was moot because Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump returns to UN praising Kim | Iran in crosshairs later this week | US warns Russia on missile defense in Syria Bolton: Russian missile system sale to Syria a 'significant escalation' Overnight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' MORE outlined a policy in March that was not a blanket ban on transgender service.

Kollar-Kotelly said at the time that while the Mattis plan is written with more nuance than Trump’s original tweet, it still bans transgender service and so the lawsuit is still relevant.

In lieu of dismissing the case, the administration also asked for Kollar-Kotelly to issue a summary judgment.

The plaintiffs also filed a motion for summary judgment but asked that Kollar-Kotelly not rule on it if discovery was not completed.

“Plaintiffs are entitled to complete discovery,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote in the Friday memo. “As already stated above, despite the fact that one of defendants’ main defenses in this action is that their decisions regarding transgender military service are owed great deference because they are the product of reasoned deliberation, study and review by the military, defendants have withheld nearly all information concerning this alleged deliberation.

“This is not how civil litigation works. Defendants cannot prevent plaintiffs from obtaining the facts about a disputed issue and then expect to be granted summary judgment on that issue.”