FOIA Advisor


FOIA News: Office of Information Policy issues guidance on fees

FOIA NewsAllan BlutsteinComment


DOJ/OIP, FOIA Post, Oct. 19, 2016

With President Obama's signing of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, several substantive and procedural changes were made to the FOIA. Among these changes are additional restrictions on an agency’s ability to charge certain fees if the FOIA's time limits are not met. Today, OIP has published guidance to assist agencies in understanding these additional restrictions on charging fees.

Read more here.  


FOIA News: A Florida Orthodontist’s FOIA-Fueled, Anti-Clinton Crusade

FOIA NewsKevin SchmidtComment

A Florida Orthodontist’s FOIA-Fueled, Anti-Clinton Crusade

By Dune Lawrence, Bloomberg, Oct. 19, 2016

Larry Kawa’s afternoons are busy with school-aged patients; “your smile is the signature of our reputation,” reads the website for his Boca Raton practice. Mornings, he devotes time to his other work—digging up evidence of the ways he says Clinton and the Obama administration have undermined national security and flouted the law. He has tried to accomplish this through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which, like Kawa, turned 50 this year.

Kawa’s FOIA requests are part of a documentary trail that winds into and out of Clinton’s private e-mail server when she was secretary of state—the grass roots of an ongoing effort by conservative members of Congress and the conservative legal group Judicial Watch to vindicate their belief that Clinton broke the law and exposed national secrets.

Kawa does not support Trump in the race for president, but even as Clinton's lead has widened, he is still trying to expose what he calls a crisis in government accountability that transcends party lines.

“Americans deserve transparency, regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on," he says. "And if Hillary Clinton were a Republican, I wouldn’t feel any different.”

Read more here.

Q&A: O Michigan Voter, Where Art Thou?

Q&AAllan BlutsteinComment

Q.  Are absentee voter applications [in Michigan] subject to FOIA and what information,  if any, will be redacted?

A.   Certain information that appears  on an absentee ballot application, such as a home address, would typically be protected in response to an access request.  In this instance, however, Michigan's election law provides that applications for absentee ballots "shall be be open to public inspection at all reasonable hours."  I infer from this provision that no information would be redacted in response to a request to inspect an application (or a FOIA request).   For additional guidance, you might wish to contact the Secretary of State's Office, which oversees elections in Michigan.         

Q&A: Go Blue?

Q&AAllan BlutsteinComment

Q.   If I were to submit a police report [in Michigan], what information on that report would be available through the freedom of information act?

A.  Michigan's FOIA contains several exemptions that a police department might rely upon to withhold information from a police report or other records.  For example, the statute authorizes a public body to withhold information "of a personal nature if public disclosure of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy." MCL § 15.243(13)(1)(a).  Additionally, a public body may withhold investigating records compiled for law enforcement purposes if disclosure would interfere with law enforcement proceedings, constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, or disclose the identity of a confidential source.  See MCL 15.243(13)(1)(b). 

Please note that the above-referenced exemptions are discretionary, meaning that a public body may release records even when it is legally entitled to withhold them.  But a police department is not likely to make a discretionary release of law enforcement information if doing so would jeopardize an individual's safety.  For further information, you might wish to contact the Michigan Coalition for Open Government, your local police department's FOIA coordinator, or a Michigan FOIA attorney.   

FOIA News: Clinton campaign planned to blitz GOP with FOIA requests

FOIA NewsAllan BlutsteinComment

linton Team Complains About FOIA Congressional Exemption Passed By Democrats

By Kerry Picket, Daily Caller, Oct. 17, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s campaign complained internally that Congress is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, so they planned to recruit Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell to send FOIA requests to members of Congress who were investigating Clinton’s emails.

The law, with its congressional exemption, was passed 50 years ago by a Democratic Congress and signed by a Democratic president.

According to a March 5, 2015 email that appeared on Wikileaks as a result of a reported hack of John Podesta’s online communications, Clinton advisor Phillipe Reines sent Lowell an email asking him to FOIA specific Republican members.

Clinton herself “loved the idea,” according to a previous email from Reines but did not want Reines himself sending the requests to Congress, so Podesta suggested Lowell.

Read more here.