A federal appeals court late last month reversed a lower-court ruling in a lawsuit that stemmed from President Clinton's national healthcare reform task force. The previous ruling ordered the Clinton administration, former Clinton aide Ira Magaziner and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to pay the legal fees-nearly $300,000-of the medical and legal organizations that had challenged the task force.
The organizations that filed the suit in 1993 are the American Council for Health Care Reform, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and the National Legal Policy Center.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth erred in his Dec. 18, 1997, ruling that the government had acted in bad faith by lying or misleading the court about the task force.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously reversed his decision, saying the evidence was insufficient to prove bad faith and Lamberth misunderstood the government's arguments. The panel remanded the case to Lamberth.
The suit resulted from the groups' dissatisfaction with the president's healthcare reform task force and the working group that supported it.
On Feb. 24, 1993, the groups filed a complaint, alleging the government had violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act by failing to file a charter for the task force and by denying public access to meetings of the task force and its interdepartmental working group.
They also charged Magaziner with lying about the composition of the working group in a declaration to the court. Magaziner said the members of the working group were all federal employees. On March 3, 1993, the district court granted the groups' injunction, holding that the task force was an advisory committee and was not entitled to an exemption the government had requested.
However, the appeals court wrote: "Because we find insufficient evidence in the record to satisfy the stringent bad faith standard, we hold that the district court's bad faith findings are clearly erroneous."