A motion filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals here yesterday seeks disclosure of the amount requested by Attorney General-designate Edwin Meese III to pay legal fees resulting from an investigation by independent counsel Jacob A. Stein.
The motion was filed by Alliance for Justice, a group representing public-interest legal organizations, and The Los Angeles Daily Journal, a newspaper that reports on legal issues.
"We think it's a newsworthy item and don't see any reason why it should be kept sealed," said Eric Effron, a reporter for The Daily Journal. "It doesn't have to do with an ongoing investigation or prosecution."
Meese's application for payment of fees was filed in court last month, according to his lawyer, Leonard Garment, who refused to divulge the amount, but which has been reported to be as much as $700,000.
George A. Fisher, clerk of the court, said he has sealed all documents in Meese's case, including the new motion.
"There's nothing that authorizes me to release it," Fisher said, referring to Meese's fee application. "If the judges decide to unseal it, then I will."
Under a 1983 amendment to the Ethics in Government Act, public officials investigated by independent counsel can seek attorneys fees if the fees resulted from the investigation and if no indictment was brought.
Stein cleared Meese of allegations of criminal wrongdoing after a five-month investigation into 11 areas, including whether a relationship existed between financial assistance to Meese by people and their appointment to federal jobs.
Hamilton Jordan, an aide to former president Jimmy Carter, last year asked the court to award $67,553 in legal fees he incurred in a special prosecutor's investigation of allegations in 1979 that he had used cocaine. The court denied his request, saying the 1983 law was not retroactive.