FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Can Courts Handle The Increased FOIA Strain Under Trump?

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Can Courts Handle The Increased FOIA Strain Under Trump?

By Bryan Koenig, Law360, Feb. 16, 2018

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton found himself in a difficult position last month, caught between the obligation for a speedy government response to a Freedom of Information Act request and the strain federal agencies and courts are under as FOIA litigation surges under the Trump administration.

Congress, the D.C. federal judge said from the bench, has required agencies to produce documents at a reasonable clip but lawmakers only give limited resources to accomplish the task. 

Read more here (subscription required)

FOIA News: Here's the Time the EPA Used Duct Tape to Redact a FOIA Request

FOIA News (2018)Kevin SchmidtComment

Here's the Time the EPA Used Duct Tape to Redact a FOIA Request

By CJ Ciaramella, Reason, Feb. 16, 2018

I've seen a lot of weird Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) redactions. I've seen redacted complaints about Amtrak snack cars and the CIA cafeteria. I've seen pictures of FBI retirement parties where all the faces were replaced by blank squares, resulting in an oddly artistic tableau.

But duct tape is a new one.

Chris Horner, a longtime FOIA requester and litigator, tweeted out pictures today of a set of emails he received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in 2015.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Office of America Innovation sued for ignoring FOIA requests

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

JARED KUSHNER’S OFFICE SUED FOR LACKING TRANSPARENCY ON INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN ‘RIPE FOR CRONYISM,’ COMPLAINANT SAYS

By Jessica Kwong , Newsweek, Feb. 16, 2018

The Office of American Innovation, led by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, has been sued for allegedly attempting to skirt federal transparency laws while shaping the administration’s infrastructure policy.

The nonprofits Democracy Forward and Food & Water Watch filed the lawsuit Thursday after the Kushner-led office “ignored” Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The organizations made FOIA requests to see whether policy-making was being improperly influenced by conflicts of interest within the Trump administration, Food & Water Watch senior staff attorney Zachary Corrigan told Newsweek.

Read more here.

FOIA News: APHIS launches site for frequently requested records

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

APHIS Launches Webpage for Frequently Requested Records

By USDA/APHIS, Feb. 16, 2018

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is launching a new “Frequently Requested Records” page on our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) e-reading room, in accordance with the FOIA statute. The new page will contain copies of frequently requested records, making it easier for our stakeholders to find information. 

On the new page, we will post copies of FOIA-processed records that have been requested and released three or more times.  We will also post items we believe are likely to be requested multiple times.  Finally, on this page, APHIS may in its discretion also post records that it believes are of interest to the public, regardless of a legal requirement to do so.  The page is searchable by keyword or program.  APHIS will continue to update this page on a monthly basis.

Read more here.

Court opinion issued Feb. 15, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Wash. v. DOJ (D.D.C.) -- finding that agency performed reasonable search for records concerning Attorney General's recusal from certain matters related to 2016 presidential campaign.  Although plaintiff did not dispute DOJ's search methodology, it argued that the agency's search nonetheless was unreasonable because plaintiff believed that certain documents should have been located, such as an updated calendar and written advice to the Attorney General.  The court rejected plaintiff's belief as "nothing but supposition," noting that it was "hardly surprising that a busy day might turn out differently for a senior government official than was planned on his calendar.  Nor is it unheard of that an official might receive sensitive advice orally rather than in writing."

Summaries of all opinions issued since April 2015 available here

FOIA News: Administration agrees to release certain visitor logs

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Trump administration agrees to post visitor logs for some White House offices

By Josh Gerstein, Politico, Feb. 15, 2018

The Trump administration has agreed to settle a pending lawsuit by making monthly public postings of details on visitors to some parts of the White House, such as the Office of Management and Budget and the drug czar's office.

However, there is no sign the Trump White House plans to reverse its decision to abandon the Obama administration's policy of releasing information on visitors to the White House's core offices, including the senior officials in the West Wing.

Read more here.

Court opinions issued Feb. 13, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Pulliam v. EPA (D.D.C.) -- in case involving investigation into toxic contamination at former Army base, finding that: (1) DOD's renewed searches were inadequate and plaintiff was entitled to "limited telephonic deposition" regarding agency's search for electronic records; (2) EPA's supplemental searches were adequate except with respect to one office, and that EPA properly withheld certain information pursuant to Exemption 6; and (3) DOJ's renewed search was inadequate in multiple respects and noting that agency's declarant had already "wasted everyone's time the first time around."

Sharkey v. DOJ (N.D. Ohio) -- ruling that FBI performed reasonable search for records concerning plaintiff (who believes federal government has been surveilling him),  and that it properly relied on Exemptions 7(C) and 7(E) to withhold certain information from records generated in response to plaintiff's complaints.  

Summaries of all opinions issued since April 2015 available here