NEW YORK (Reuters) - A judge ordered the U.S. State Department on Thursday to complete by Feb. 29 its public release of the work emails of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton from her time as secretary of state.
Clinton's decision to use a private email server in her New York home for work between 2009 and 2013 is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which took the server and other computer equipment belonging to Clinton last year.
Thursday's order by a federal judge all but guarantees more news reports about the email controversy as Americans in the early voting states of Nevada and South Carolina choose the Democratic Party's nominee on Feb. 20 and Feb. 27.
Clinton is in a tight race with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont after winning in Iowa and losing in New Hampshire. Opinion polls showed the email issue has undermined voters' trust in Clinton. Eleven more states vote on March 1 to nominate Democratic and Republican candidates to run in the November 2016 presidential election.
In his order, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in the District of Columbia also told the department to release at least 550 more emails by Saturday and to release others on Feb. 19 and Feb. 26.
The department was ordered last year to have released all the emails it had from Clinton's private email server by Jan. 29, but asked the court for an extension last month, saying it had forgotten to send about 7,000 pages of emails to other departments for internal reviews.
More than 1,500 of her emails contain what the State Department says is classified information, and her critics have said she endangered government secrets and foiled government transparency laws.
Clinton disputes this and says her arrangement was allowed under the rules in place at the time.
Clinton returned about 54,000 pages of her emails to the department in 2014, and her staff have said that an unknown number of her emails have been lost.
Contreras ordered the State Department to release the emails to the public last year after Jason Leopold, a reporter for VICE News, sued the department under freedom of information laws. Clinton has said she welcomes their release, and her staff have said the department is overclassifying them.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool