Annual Report: FOIA Lawsuits Reach Record Highs in FY 2018
Chistine Mehta, The FOIA Project, Nov. 12, 2018
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits continued to break record highs in FY 2018. According to case-by-case court records, 860 FOIA lawsuits were filed in FY 2018 against government agencies. In addition, the backlog of FOIA suits waiting to be decided rose to 1,204 cases, an all-time high.
Compared to an average of 402 FOIA suits per year during the Obama Administration, the rate of filing since President Trump assumed office has more than doubled. While suits rose during the latter years of the Obama Administration, the 860 suits filed in FY 2018, represent a 67 percent increase over filings during the last full fiscal year of the Obama Administration.
Although not the only factor, a notable pattern emerging during FY 2017 and 2018 is the rising number of nonprofit filers. In FY 2018, nonprofits comprised 56 percent of all FOIA lawsuits brought against the government. Nonprofits became increasingly active under the Obama Administration, but emerged as the majority of all FOIA lawsuit plaintiffs after President Trump took office. In FY 2016, nonprofit filers comprised just 36 percent of plaintiffs, whereas they comprised 50 percent or more in FY 2017 and FY 2018 (see previous report, “FOIA Suits Filed by Nonprofit/Advocacy Groups Have Doubled Under Trump”). Suits filed by reporters and news organizations also have been increasing.
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