(Kitco News) -A federal district judge in Washington, D.C. is reviewing 20 documents provided by the U.S. Federal Reserve as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by the Gold Anti-Trust Action committee for information relating to gold swaps as far back as 1990.

If U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle turns the documents over to GATA, it will be up to the group to decide whether the information will be released to the public.

Judge Huvelle’ s Jan. 10 order was for an “in camera” inspection, which is a private inspection by the judge where the public and the press are not allowed to attend. “In camera” is sometimes referred to as “in chambers.”

The Fed complied with the judge’s order to submit 20 documents, both edited and unedited versions. The documents were listed in the Fed’s Vaughn Index, which is the tool federal agencies use to justify withholding information from FOIA requests from individuals and groups for U.S. government records. For a document to be withheld there must be a specific FOIA exemption and a reason.

The reasons will list how potentially damaging it will be to disclose the information publically. The judge will decide whether it is proper to withhold the information. There are nine exceptions under the FOIA act.

Sheldon Snook, media liaison for the U.S. District Court, told Kitco News that the order could serve as a means to assess whether the requested documents could be placed on the public docket.

“The general rule is that personal identifiers, account numbers, as well as a requirement that names of minors are not made public,” Snook said, explaining the process.

Documents that have been sealed as part of a settlement, or as trade secrets, could be protected from publication, Snook said. Generally, he said, judges are more inclined to place information on the open court docket.

GATA filed the current FOIA request against the Federal Reserve on Dec. 30, 2009 and it is connected to an earlier 2007 FOIA request and another in 2009. These requests sought the records from the Federal Reserve regarding purported “gold swap” records involving the United States dating back to 1990.

On June 21, 2010 the Federal Reserve asked the judge for a summary judgment, which is asking to rule in its favor and not make the documents public, claiming GATA had not raised a genuine trial issue.

GATA’s Bill Murphy acknowledged that even though the judge can invariably grant the summary judgment, he believes that on the first go around GATA won. “We got added victory, it may be minor, but it was a victory against the Fed, because they went all out to have the judge not do anything,” he said.

The Federal Reserve declined to comment.

Judge Huvelle has two decisions she can make. She can either proceed with the FOIA request, or rule in favor of the Federal Reserve. If she rules in favor of the government, GATA will have to try and defeat the summary judgment, which might be harder as they must present some evidence on each issue and bear the burden of proof at any trial.

When asked what GATA’s next move would be if the judge rules in the Federal Reserve’s favor, GATA avowed that they are determined to win. “We’re not going away, we’re just getting warmed up,” Murphy said.

By Cecylia Tulikowski-Denison of Kitco News; ctulikowski@kitco.com

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