A federal judge in Baltimore has turned down a request by the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives for a second stay of contempt-of-court fines. U.S. District Judge Edward Northrop refused Monday to stay the $500-a-day fines that have been levied against clerk Benjamin Guthrie since July 11.
The matter arose when Maryland insurance salesman George Benford tried to obtain files of the House Select Committee on Aging as evidence in his $25 million civil suit against House staff members and ABC News.
Benford accused the defendants of conspiracy to violate electronic surveillance laws and conspiracy maliciously to injure his business reputation after ABC News telecast a videotape of his trying to sell insurance to two elderly women in 1978.
In April, the House voted 386 to 22 to order Guthrie not to yield "privileged" committee records.
Northrop noted that he had stayed the fine earlier to let Guthrie appeal the contempt citation, give the documents at issue to the court or object to the subpoena and give the judge an index of the documents. The clerk, Northrop said, "failed to comply . . . and, instead, filed general objections, violating the letter and spirit of this court's order."