FOIA Advisor

Court opinions issued Apr. 18-19, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Apr. 19, 2019

Natural Res. Def. Council v. EPA (D.D.C.) -- finding that: (1) plaintiff had Article III standing to challenge EPA’s policy or practice of threatening to deem FOIA requests as “voluntarily withdrawn” when: (a) the agency concludes on an initial review that the request does not “reasonably describe” the records sought and so notifies the requester, and (b) the requester fails to contact the EPA within ten days regarding the asserted deficiency in the request; and (2) neither party had sufficiently explained whether plaintiff had statutory standing or could obtain injunctive or similar relief.

Apr. 18, 2019

Kriemelmeyer v. U.S. Dept. of State (W.D. Wis.) -- concluding that: (1) DOJ’s National Security Division performed adequate search for Foreign Agent Registration records and was under no obligation to inform plaintiff that he could have searched pubic database for same records; (2) Department of State properly denied plaintiff’s request for records pertaining to his passport application because plaintiff failed to certify his identity in accordance with agency regulations.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

Court opinion issued Apr. 17, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Elec. Frontier Found. v. DOJ (D.D.C.) -- ruling that: (1) FBI improperly relied on Exemption 7(E) in refusing to confirm or deny existence of records concerning agency’s use, training, and recruitment of informants at computer repair facilities; (2) FBI properly invoked Exemption 7(E) to withhold certain records concerning use of informants at Best Buy; (3) FBI failed to provide sufficient information to allow court to determine whether Exemption 7(C) protected name of criminal convicted on evidence obtained from Best Buy in Kentucky; (4) FBI did not sufficiently explain grounds for invoking Exemptions 6, 7(C), 7(D), and 7(E) to categorically withhold informant files for eight confidential informants acknowledged in criminal case.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

FOIA News: Redactions in Mueller report may be reviewed in FOIA case

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Judge in FOIA case says he may want to review DOJ redactions of Mueller report after release

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN, Apr. 16, 2019

Federal District Judge Reggie Walton expressed uncertainty about the redactions Attorney General William Barr is making to special counsel Robert Mueller's report and suggested he may want to review the Justice Department's redactions for himself once versions of it are made public.

"Obviously there is a real concern as to whether there is full transparency," Walton said at a Tuesday court hearing in Washington about a request from BuzzFeed News to have the Justice Department release the report quickly under the Freedom of Information Act. "The attorney general has created an environment that has caused a significant part of the American public to be concerned" about the redactions.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Commission of Fine Arts proposes revisions to FOIA regulations

FOIA News (2019)Ryan MulveyComment

The Commission of Fine Arts published an interim final rule, along with a request for public comments, concerning revised FOIA regulations in today’s issue of the Federal Register. The CFA last updated its FOIA regulations in 1986. The proposed revisions, which are effective June 1, 2019, incorporate all FOIA-related amendments that have passed over the past thirty years. Public comments are due by May 20, 2019.

FOIA News: Argument preview for Exemption 4 SCOTUS case

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Argument preview: Justices to consider meaning of “confidential” in Freedom of Information Act

By Mark Fenster, SCOTUSblog, Apr. 15, 2019

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issues specialized debit cards to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits recipients. Although the data that USDA gathers under SNAP are not quite so rich and revealing as those collected by private credit- and debit-card issuers, they do include commercial information about the retail grocery stores at which SNAP recipients purchase their groceries. The Argus Leader newspaper (based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota) requested this data under the Freedom of Information Act to further its investigative reporting into SNAP-related fraud. Its appeal of USDA’s denial of its request landed twice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit before reaching the Supreme Court, where the justices will hear oral argument on April 22.

Read more here.  

Court opinions issued Apr. 11, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Bartko v. DOJ (D.D.C.) -- finding that EOUSA properly relied on Exemption 7(C) to withhold third-party information from three criminal case files, but that it failed to adequately explain its search for emails.

Poitras v. DHS (D.D.C.) -- denying plaintiff’s request for attorney’s fees after finding that: (1) plaintiff had self-interested motives to seek records concerning her repeated border and airport detentions; and (2) withholdings by agencies were proper, let alone reasonable.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 are available here.

FOIA News: House committee seeks more money for Interior’s FOIA program

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Dems want additional funds to meet FOIA 'transparency goals'

Scott Streater, E&E News, Apr. 12, 2019

The Democratic chairmen of the House Natural Resources and Oversight and Reform committees are asking appropriators to increase funding for the Interior Department program that handles Freedom of Information Act requests

Read more here (accessible with free trial subscription).