WILMINGTON, Del. – A lawsuit backed by a right-wing news website, suing the University of Delaware for its refusal to release documents related to President Joe Biden’s senatorial records, has made its way to the Delaware Supreme Court.
Oral arguments in the case on Wednesday revolved around the interpretation of the university's long-held exemption from most Freedom of Information Act requests.
Judicial Watch, a conservative nonprofit, filed a lawsuit on behalf of itself and the Daily Caller News Foundation in July 2020 against UD for its refusal to release documents surrounding the senatorial records.
The Daily Caller was founded by now-Fox News host Tucker Carlson in 2010.
The lawsuit claimed the university violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying requests. The appellants argued on Wednesday that the documents it requested are public records.
The university maintained at the time, and in oral arguments Wednesday, that the papers are not public records because state funds are not involved.
UD was thrust in the national spotlight last year, when former Senate staffer Tara Reade accused Biden of sexually assaulting her when she worked in his office. Many thought at the time that the sealed Senate documents could offer some insight into Reade and her accusation.
Biden donated his senatorial papers to his alma mater in 2012. It consists of more than 1,850 boxes, along with 415 gigabytes of electronic records. University officials said archivists haven’t finished going through most of the collection.
At first, the documents were expected to be available to the public two years after Biden’s last day in elected office. But this changed after Biden ran for president. Now, the documents will not be made public until two years after Biden retires from public life.
Reade, the former Senate staffer, told the Associated Press in the spring of 2020 that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993. Biden has said the incident never happened.
In April 2020, Judicial Watch and the Daily Caller filed FOIA requests, which included documents involving any communication about the release of the papers and communication between the university and Biden officials regarding the documents. The Daily Caller request also sought the senate records given to UD.
NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT: UD is now at the center of the sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden
The university denied the requests, citing how public funds are not used to support Biden’s Senate collection. The state attorney general’s office upheld this. Following an appeal to Delaware Superior Court, the court in January affirmed the attorney general’s decision.
UD and Delaware State University are not state agencies, and therefore are exempt from most information requests, according to state law. The major exemption is unless information requests directly pertain to the expenditure of public funds.
The question of whether UD is a public or private institution has been litigated several times. UD has looked to its charter as proof that it is a “privately governed, state-assisted university.” Though it must share information directly related to public funds, all other financial information is considered private.
It has resulted in taxpayers being kept in the dark about the university’s business practices.
The Delaware Supreme Court did not say when it might rule.
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 256-2466 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @MereNewman.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Daily Caller-backed suit for Biden records heard by Delaware high court