Packwood asks appeals court to delay release of his diaries

February 15, 1994|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Robert Packwood carried to a higher court yesterday his running fight with Senate ethics investigators over the privacy of his personal diaries, asking for more time to let the constitutional dispute unfold.

In a request for a speedy ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here, the Oregon Republican also sought a delay in any release of his diaries to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics for use in its probe of misconduct charges.

U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Jackson has ruled that Mr. Packwood has no constitutional right to withhold the diaries from the committee. Still, the judge has given the senator a week from today to appeal.

That is "insufficient time" to get the constitutional issues decided, the Circuit Court was told by Mr. Packwood's lawyer, Jacob A. Stein. If the ethics committee is cleared next week to start reviewing diaries, the harm to his privacy "cannot be erased" even if the senator ultimately wins his challenge, the attorney said.

The senator claims that the committee's demand for his taped diaries and the written transcripts of them is unconstitutionally broad, allowing the investigators to "rummage" through his private life. The diaries, the lawyer said, deal not only with his work as a senator, but also "his innermost thoughts on a wide variety of private personal matters."

In addition, the senator fears that the committee probe will force him, through the diaries, to give evidence against himself that could be used in a Justice Department criminal investigation. The department also has subpoenaed the diaries, but the courts have yet to rule on that separate question.

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