Judicial Watch is a politically conservative government watchdog group. According to its mission statement, it "advocates high standards of ethics and morality in America's public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people."
Founded by conservative attorney Larry Klayman in 1994, Judicial Watch came to public attention after filing 18 lawsuits against the administration of Democratic U.S. President Bill Clinton and figures in the Clinton administration. The organization received considerable financial support from prominent Clinton critics, including $7.74 million from conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. This led Clinton administration officials to accuse Judicial Watch of "abusing the judicial system for partisan ends." According to Judicial Watch, Clinton and top Congressional Democrats encouraged the IRS to audit them and say that an IRS agent asked them, "What do you expect when you sue the President?"
Judicial Watch's consistent investigations against Democratic figures have led to accusations that the group's lawsuits are focused on being politically motivated to help Republicans rather than enforce the law. However, in July 2003 Judicial Watch joined the environmental organization Sierra Club in suing the George W. Bush administration for access to minutes of Vice PresidentDick Cheney's Energy Task Force. After several years of legal wrangling, in May, 2005 an appeals court permitted the Energy Task Force's records to remain secret.
In September 2003, Klayman left the organization to run for the United States Senate from Florida. In 2006 Klayman sued Judicial Watch and its president Tom Fitton. The lawsuit charged Fitton with misrepresentation of his academic and professional credentials upon hiring, and upon assuming his position engaged in false and misleading fund raising, misuse of donor money, failure to appoint an attorney as Chairman, failure to comply with a promised severance package to Klayman, and other actions which damaged Judicial Watch, the donors and Klayman. The majority of Klayman’s claims have been dismissed, including all claims against Fitton and the other officers of the organization. The only claims by Klayman that remain pending before the Court consist of allegations that Judicial Watch breached a severance agreement with Klayman.
Judicial Watch has asserted several claims against Klayman. On October 14, 2009, the Court found that Klayman breached the severance agreement by failing to pay Judicial Watch, $69,358,48 in unreimbursed personal expenses. $ The remainder of Judicial Watch’s claims against Klayman, which include additional claims of breaches of the severance agreement and trademark infringement, remain pending before the Court as of October 5, 2010.
The motto of Judicial Watch is "because no one is above the law." The bulk of Judicial Watch's cases involve transparency in government and government integrity, and the organization has taken positions on a wide range of issues. Judicial Watch supports:
"High standards of ethics and morality in our nation's public life";
Suing the U.S. Senate to disallow the filibuster in their debates over confirmation of judicial nominees, coinciding with proposed efforts by Republican Senate leaders to internally do the same thing.
Criticizing the George W. Bush administration for their guest worker program, obtaining evidence of a spike in illegal immigration denied by the administration.
Initiating a request to the Naval Inspector General for an investigation into the "legitimacy and propriety" of the awards John Kerry received for his service in Vietnam. The inspector general's office subsequently determined that Kerry's awards "were properly approved" and declined to take further action in the matter; the office also responded to Judicial Watch's Freedom of Information Act request with documentation of its review.
Rejecting the adjudicated innocence of David Rosen, who served as campaign finance director for DemocratHillary Clinton's campaign for the U.S. Senate and had been indicted for filing false reports.
Condemning as murder the death of Terri Schiavo, who lived for 15 years in a diagnosed persistent vegetative state and whose husband wished to allow to die. Her parents wished that she be kept on life support, and were joined in their pursuits by prominent Republicans.
On June 20, 2007 the group released FBI documents related to the “expeditious departure” of Saudi nationals, including members of the bin Laden family, from the United States following the 9/11 attacks. According to one of the documents, dated September 21, 2001, Osama bin Laden himself may have chartered one of the Saudi flights.
Launched an investigation into any White House's involvement in "branding" of the University of Arizona memorial for the victims of the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, at which t-shirts bearing the slogan "Together We Thrive" were distributed. Judicial Watch demanded the university send them "any and all communications, contracts or correspondence between the University of Arizona and The White House concerning, regarding or relating to T-shirts bearing the logo 'Together We Thrive: Tucson & America,' distributed to attendees at the January 12, 2011, memorial service". The university replied that the White House had no involvement with the branding of the event, and that the slogan—which Judicial Watch described as "an obvious play on a popular Obama presidential campaign theme"—was devised by a university student.
^United States District Court for the District of Columbia Civil Action No. 06-670 (Ckk); Larry Klayman, Plaintiff, V. Judicial Watch, Inc., et Al., Defendants; Memorandum Opinion, (December 3, 2007); United States District Court for the District of Columbia Civil Action No. 06-670 (Ckk); Larry Klayman, Plaintiff, V. Judicial Watch, Inc., et Al., Defendants; Memorandum Opinion, (June 25, 2009)
^Klayman v. Judicial Watch, Inc., 628 F. Supp.2d 112, 118 (D.D.C. 2009).