Using a Public Records Request to Learn More About Brett Kavanaugh

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Readers have asked about the kind of public information requests our journalists make. Two of our investigative reporters explain how This particular worked with recent requests on President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination.

Brett M. KavanaughCreditErin Schaff for The completely new York Times

U.S. Supreme Court justices have some of the most important jobs inside country, given their lifetime appointments in addition to the gravity of the issues facing the high court.

of which’s why newsrooms across the country, including The completely new York Times, have spilled a lot of ink covering President Trump’s nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to fill the seat left vacant by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement.

As journalists, we aim to shed light on important people inside news — particularly public officials in addition to Supreme Court nominees — to help our readers understand them, how they think in addition to how they operate. of which due diligence leads us to interview people who know the nominees, like colleagues in addition to neighbors. the idea requires of which we read what the nominees have written or watch speeches they’ve delivered. in addition to the idea often depends on our requests for public records of which could offer our readers a fresh perspective about the nominees.

inside case of Mr. Kavanaugh, The Times requested records under Maryland’s public records law through Chevy Chase Section 5, where the nominee’s wife, Ashley, serves as town manager.

We sought email records involving Judge Kavanaugh in addition to communications of which referenced hot-button topics. We believed of which the records, if they existed, could provide a unique in addition to personalized view into the nominee. We worked with the town to minimize the time in addition to cost involved in responding to our request. (The Associated Press submitted its own request, in addition to The Times in addition to others have filed separate requests with the National Archives pertaining to Mr. Kavanaugh.)

Ultimately, our request yielded 85 pages of emails, none of which provided any substantive insights into Mr. Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy. Instead, the records were largely what you would likely expect through a town manager’s email account — mundane dispatches about town business, through snow removals to local newsletters. Not surprisingly, numerous people, neighbors in addition to strangers alike, sent Ashley Kavanaugh congratulations on her husband’s nomination.

In additional words, the idea was hardly front-page news.

in addition to yet, we recognized before submitting the request of which This particular was a possible outcome. We often file public records requests of which yield no newsworthy information.

although when the idea comes to reporting on a potential Supreme Court justice, we had to try.

More information on how we use public information requests:


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Steve Eder can be an investigative reporter, writing about the federal government under President Trump, as well as his personal businesses. He has previously covered the 2016 presidential campaign in addition to wrote for the Sports desk. @steveeder

Ben Protess covers the Trump Administration, including its overhaul of Obama-era regulations in addition to potential conflicts of interest arising out of the president’s personal business dealings. He previously covered white collar crime, Wall Street lobbying in addition to the private equity industry. @benprotess