U.S. District Court Judge William B. Bryant ordered the Justice Department yesterday to give the Senate Judiciary Committee access to five groups of key documents obtained by a grand jury for an investigation of connections between aides and associates of former president Carter and fugitive financier Robert Vesco.
Bryant's decision helped confirm the right of Capitol Hill to oversee the performance of the Justice Department in sensitive criminal cases.
Bryand held that federal rules exempted from disclosure only an inventory of all documents subponenaed by the grand jury and those parts of the department memos and recommendations "that reveal what actually occurred before the grand jury. . . ."
A department spokesman had no comment last night.
The Vesco papers were among those sought a year ago by Sens. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) for a review of the handling of several cases by the department's public integrity section.
At the time, DeConcini headed, and Hatch was a member of, the subcommittee on improvements in judicial machinery, which had been directed by the full committee to review the Vesco case.
Medt by what they called "stonewalling" by former attorney general Benjamin R. Civiletti and criminal division chief Philip B. Heymann, the legislators won the support of the full committee and, finally, of the Senate, which authorized a lawsuit.