Court Battles

Judge dismisses BuzzFeed lawsuit aimed at obtaining Jan. 6 records from Capitol Police

Police stand guard after holding off rioters who tried to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by BuzzFeed News and the outlet’s investigative reporter Jason Leopold, who sought documents from U.S. Capitol Police related to the directives given on Jan. 6, 2021.

In summary judgement dated Tuesday, D.C. District Judge Beryl A. Howell concluded that BuzzFeed and Leopold “have no right to demand disclosure” of the documents requested, including Office of the Inspector General reports, semiannual disbursement reports and written directives on the day of the Capitol riot.

BuzzFeed had originally requested documents from the Capitol Police following the Jan. 6 insurrection, and a representative for the force denied the request.

BuzzFeed and Leopold filed a petition to the D.C. federal court asking for an order that would require Capitol Police to release the documents. The plaintiffs argued that though the Capitol Police is a legislative agency, and is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, its documents should be released to the public.

The Capitol Police however, maintained that the documents requested were “law enforcement sensitive” and, if made public, “would reveal confidential sources and methods, investigative activities and techniques,” according to Howell’s decision.

The Capitol Police also argued that because officers were sued in their official capacity under a legislative agency, the documents are protected under the federal government’s sovereign immunity, meaning the force could not be sued “without the consent of Congress.”

Howell ruled that the Capitol Police had no duty to disclose the requested documents and that no exception should be made to the agency’s sovereign immunity.

“This case is therefore dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction,” Howell concluded.

Tags Beryl A. Howell BuzzFeed News jan. 6 Jan. 6 attack Jason Leopold
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