FOIA Advisor


Q&A: Don't bank on it

Q&A (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q.  I need to know how to file a FOIA request for a copy of a check PNC bank made to my sister after the death of my mother.

A.  PNC is a private entity, not a government agency, and thus it is not subject to FOIA requests.  


Q.  Is a Michigan property owners association subject to a FOIA request?

A.   No.  See, e.g., Attorney General Opinion No. 6942, p. 40, July 3, 1997 (A private, voluntary, unincorporated association of lake property owners is not a public body subject to the FOIA).

FOIA News: Nonprofits prognosticate on FOIA under Trump

FOIA News (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Trump Could Tear Down Obama’s FOIA Secrecy. Here’s Why He Probably Won’t.

By Ethan Barton, Daily Caller, Mar. 24. 2017

President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) is fighting against Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits seeking politically-charged Obama-era documents like those linked to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s scandals.

Trump could demand federal agencies release records to the public, but that would harm the bureaucracy’s ability to retain secrets – something career government officials handling the lawsuits and FOIA requests don’t want, according to transparency experts from nonprofit watchdog groups.

Read more here

Court opinions issued Mar. 23, 2017

Court Opinions (2017)Allan BlutsteinComment

Ocasio v. Merit Sys. Prot. Bd. (D.D.C.) -- dismissing case after concluding that MSPB had released all records requested by plaintiff, except for ALJ hearing notes that had been routinely destroyed prior to request. 

Apotosky v. FBI (N.D. Ohio) -- finding that: (1) plaintiff abandoned his FOIA claim against Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and (2) FBI established that all requested records were produced, unidentifiable, or exempt.

Turner v. U.S. Dep't of the Treasury (E.D. Cal.) -- ruling that Financial Crimes Enforcement Network conducted a reasonable search for four requested items, but that it improperly invoked Exemption 3 (Bank Secrecy Act) without actually searching for fifth item of requested records.   

Henson v. HHS & FDA (S.D. Ill.) -- determining that government performed a reasonable search for requested records and properly withheld certain records pursuant to Exemptions 4, 5, and 6.

Summaries of all opinions issued since April 2015 available here.

FOIA News: CoA Institute Uncovers EPA Investigation into Employees’ Use of Encrypted Messaging App

FOIA News (2017)Kevin SchmidtComment

CoA Institute Uncovers EPA Investigation into Employees’ Use of Encrypted Messaging App

Cause of Action Institute, Mar. 23, 2017

Hours after filing a lawsuit demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) disclose records about its employees’ use of an encrypted messaging application, Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) received a letter from the EPA’s Office of General Counsel acknowledging that there is an “open law enforcement” investigation looking into the matter.

The EPA indicated that records created or received by its employees on “Signal,” and records concerning efforts “to retrieve, recover, or retain” those messages, were “part of one or more open law enforcement file(s).” The agency claimed such records were exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) because they were compiled for “law enforcement purposes” and their disclosure “could reasonably be expected to interfere with ongoing enforcement proceedings.”  Further, the EPA stated that it could not find any records reflecting “permission, clearance, or approval” for the use of the encrypted messaging app.

Read more here.

FOIA News: FOIA March Madness 2017 - Round Two

FOIA News (2017)Ryan MulveyComment

FOIA March Madness 2017: Round Two Begins

Beryl Lipton, MuckRock, Mar. 22, 2017

We’re one week into our annual competition for Fastest FOIA Agency, and MuckRock’s March Madness is beset with upsets and outliers. Finishing up the first round this past weekend (March 19), we’ve already seen a lot of solid moves this week, so be sure to check back in next Tuesday to find out whether Round Two is where we see a contender with a clear competitive edge.

Read more here.