FOIA Advisor

Court opinions issued July 17, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Judicial Watch v. DHS (D.C. Cir.) -- in a 2-1 decision, reversing district court's decision that plaintiff's complaint failed to adequately allege “policy or practice” claim against Secret Service based on history of delayed responses.  

Trautman v. DOJ (D.D.C.) -- determining that National Archives & Records Administration failed to adequately describe search of three agency offices for records pertaining to investigation of former Archivist Archivist of the United States, Allen Weinstein.

Summaries of all published opinions issued since April 2015 available here

FOIA News: OGIS issues guidance on agency-requester communications

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Today the Office of Government Informations Services issued guidance -- inexplicably referred to as an "Advisory Opinion" -- concerning agency communications with requesters.  In sum, OGIS recommends that agencies  provide, at a minimum, a contact name along with email and mailing addresses, and telephone and fax numbers of the agency; include information regarding the FOIA Public Liaison’s duties; and clearly state that contacting the FOIA Public Liaison or OGIS does not stop the 90-day appeal clock.

Last month, DOJ issued guidance to agencies on the importance of providing "quality requester services."

FOIA News: Another E-Discovery Tool Marketed as FOIA Solution

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Could New Software Speed Up FOIA Responses?

Charles S. Clark, Gov't Exec., July 17, 2018

Attorneys have long been using what are called e-Discovery tools to organize documents gathered as evidence.

But now, according to one San Francisco-based software marketer, federal agencies could exploit such electronic tools to accelerate their responses to Freedom of Information Act requests.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Group seeks expedited review of Kavanaugh docs

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Activists Want to See SCOTUS Nominee Brett Kavanaugh's Documents—Now

Transparency advocates on Monday asked a federal court in Washington to expedite release of thousands of documents related to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s previous government positions.

By Tony Mauro, Nat'l L.J., July 16, 2018 

Transparency advocates on Monday asked a federal court in Washington to expedite release of thousands of documents related to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s previous government positions, material that otherwise might not be made public for years or decades.

Fix the Court, aided by American Oversight, sought injunctions against the National Archives and Records Administration and the Department of Justice. It argued the agencies’ failure to respond adequately to previous Freedom of Information Act requests will deprive the public of “information essential to ensure that Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment receives rigorous, informed debate—in the Senate and among the general public—appropriate for a critical post in a representative democracy.”

Read more here.

FOIA News: EPA's politicized FOIA review was established under Obama, says top agency official

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment


Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, July 16, 2018

Environmental protection Agency (EPA) policies put in place that a top House Democrat railed against were actually put in place under the Obama administration, according to the agency’s top ethics official.

EPA attorney and designated ethics official Kevin Minoli told Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings the processes he called “particularly troubling” were first implemented under the Obama administration.

In a letter to Cummings, Minoli wrote that former Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe asked him to create the FEAT system in 2013 because the agency “was routinely the subject of litigation, public criticism, and Congressional oversight.”

Read more here.

FOIA News: EPA responds to House Oversight about FOIA procedures

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Second 'minibus' pulls in

Kelsey Tamborrino, Politico/Morning Energy, July 16, 2018

EPA ETHICS OFFICIAL DEFENDS FOIA PROCESS: Kevin Minoli, EPA's principal deputy general counsel, replied last night to the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, who on Friday pressed for a subpoena over the agency’s handling of FOIA requests. In his letter, Minoli offers to brief Congress on the agency’s FOIA Expert Assistance Team that was created in 2013 to “make the FOIA process at EPA better.”

Read more here (subscription required to access internal links)


FOIA News: Government FOIA jobs available

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q&A: See me, Feel me

Q&A (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q.  It has been 8 business days since we made a FOIA request to the DOJ. We have not received an acknowledgement letter or tracking number yet. DOJ's website states DOJ "ordinarily will send you a letter acknowledging the request ..."  How common is it for them not to send an acknowledgement letter?

A.  The statute requires agencies to assign a tracking number after 10 days, see 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(7)(A), and most agencies will acknowledge a request within a few weeks of receipt.  If you are concerned about whether your request was received, or simply are eager to get a tracking number, you might wish to contact the agency's FOIA Public Liaison.

FOIA News: Former EPA aide discusses agency's FOIA operations

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

The Latest: Scrutiny of 'politically charged' FOIA requests

By Ellen Knickmeyer,  Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 13, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Latest on the Environmental Protection Agency's handling of public records requests (all times local):

10:35 a.m.

Environmental Protection Agency Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson is defending his agency's handling of records requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Jackson said in a phone interview Friday his agency has worked its way through a 10-year backlog of records requests left from the Obama administration. He says the agency is now processing current records requests as quickly as it can.

Read more here.