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Want to File a Motion in the FISA Court? First You Have to Find Them

Posted on June 17th, 2013
by Jonathan Corbett
I've filed documents in U.S. District Courts, U.S. Courts of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as various state courts. It's generally a fairly simple process: each court has a clerk, and you simply need to get them the documents and, sometimes, pay a fee. Some have silly procedures (for example, the U.S. Supreme Court politely asks you to place all your documents in a garbage bag), but nothing terribly difficult, per se.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was at the post office on Sunday with your Motions to Quash in an envelope, and could not find the address to send them to. That's because no such address exists.

As I stood dumbfounded with my smartphone in the iconic James A. Farley Post Office in Manhattan, I learned that there is no address for the clerk of the FISA court. FISA Ct. Rule 7(k) states that, "A party may obtain instructions for making submissions permitted under the Act and these Rules by contacting the Clerk at (202) 357-6250."

So that I did, and of course, it just gets weirder. I left a message, which was returned yesterday by a pleasant sounding woman who told me to reach a woman named Christine Gunning. I asked if this woman was a representative of the clerk, and I was told, "No." Well then who is she? "She works for the Department of Justice."

The idea that there is a court in the United States of America that has not even a mailing address is absolutely astounding. But upon further research, "the FISC" appears not to actually exist, at least as a physical court room. The idea that in order to reach the judicial branch, I must ask the executive branch to process my request is antithetical to the separation of powers required by our constitution. But, this whole deal -- the spying, the secret courts, the lying to us to "protect us" -- it's all antithetical to our values, isn't it?

I will continue to work to get your motions submitted.

Copyright © 2013 Jonathan Corbett. All rights reserved.