On Monday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked deposition requests handed down to three officials in the Biden administration, overruling Louisiana District Judge Terry Doughty, who had originally placed the order.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly, and White House Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty had all been slated to provide depositions in an ongoing lawsuit alleging that the administration worked hand-in-hand with social media companies to censor certain points of view.
As the New York Post reports, in their decision, the panel of judges stated that they would be staying the depositions "pending further consideration" from Doughty and the district court.
"Before any of the depositions may go forward," they argued, "the district court must analyze whether the information sought can be obtained through less intrusive, alternative means, such as further written discovery or depositions of lower-ranking officials."
They went on to point out that the Biden administration "has already produced extensive written discovery," and that in his ruling, Doughty gave Easterly and Flaherty the choice to send their inferiors to depose in their place. Thus, they argued, it is now Doughty's burden to prove why the government's request to find alternative means is unreasonable.
"It is not enough," they continued, "that these officials may have 'personal knowledge' about certain communications. That knowledge may be shared widely or have only marginal importance in comparison to the 'potential burden' imposed on the deponent."
As the New York Post reports, while the court's ruling may lead to Murthy, Easterly, and Flaherty not having to give depositions, there are a number of other officials listed in the lawsuit that are still slated to take the stand, including Dr. Fauci and former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
If Doughty is not able to defend his position, however, their depositions may be overturned as well.
The lawsuit, which was filed by attorneys general Eric Schmitt of Missouri and Jeff Landry of Louisiana in May, alleged that the Biden administration had colluded with big tech to suppress debate over topics like Covid-19, election integrity, and the Hunter Biden laptop story.
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