FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Bench trial begins on egg farm inspection reports

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Withholding of Egg Data Challenged in Rare FOIA Trial

By Nicholas Iovino, Courthouse News Serv., Apr. 19, 2018

Revealing details about the living conditions of hens would give business rivals an edge and irreparably harm small egg producers in Texas, an egg company executive testified Thursday on the first day of a rare Freedom of Information Act bench trial.

“That information will give a competitor a pretty good indication of what our cost of production is and also what our capacity is,” said David Elbel, president of Feather Crest Farms, based in Bryan, Texas.

Elbel was the first witness in a rare bench trial over whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can exclude details from Texas egg farm inspection reports on the number of hens and hen houses along with cage rows, tiers and floors per hen house.

Read more here.

FOIA News: EPA to review FOIA requests for Pruitt emails

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

EPA checking if all of Pruitt's email accounts were included in FOIA responses

By John Siciliano, Wash. Exam'r, Apr. 19, 2018 

The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing all of its Freedom of Information Act responses under Administrator Scott Pruitt to ensure that they included all four of Pruitt's email accounts.

Steven Fine, the EPA's deputy chief information officer, told Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., in a letter released Thursday that the agency's long-held policy is to search all emails, secondary or otherwise, in responding to FOIA and congressional requests.

Nevertheless, Fine said the agency will conduct a review of all searches made in response to FOIA requests as long as Pruitt has been head of the agency.

Read more here.

FOIA News: FOIA Advisory Committee approves 37 recommendations

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

FOIA advisers push for more proactive disclosure

By Chase Gunter, FCW, Apr 18, 2018

A federal advisory committee finalized a series of draft recommendations for the National Archivist and agencies to improve management of the Freedom of Information Act.

The FOIA Advisory Committee approved 37 recommendations for agencies to implement, 23 of which cover the topics of process management and proactive disclosure.

Agencies were advised not to remove legally posted documents already on agency websites, to improve communication with requesters, train FOIA professionals to manage records and use metrics such as case closures, pages reviewed and quality requirements as part of employee performance evaluations.

Read more here.

FOIA News: OGIS announces dispute resolution training

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Time to Register for Our May 8th Dispute Resolution Skills Training Session!

Nat'l Archives & Records Admin, OGIS Blog, Apr. 18, 2018

Registration is now open for our May 8 Dispute Resolution Skills for FOIA Professionals training session. Space is limited and seats fill up fast, so make sure you act now to reserve your spot for this free training! We ask that you register with your government email address and tell us your agency—we want to know where you are coming from.

This training is intended to teach FOIA professionals practical communication skills to help them understand and resolve disputes–a skill that can help you improve communication with not just FOIA requesters, but also with your agency colleagues, and even your friends and family. We also give training participants a chance to test drive their skills and fine tune their approach through activities and a role playing exercise.

We can also offer agency-specific training. If you are interested in having us conduct a training session for your staff please contact Carrie McGuire at carrie.mcguire@nara.gov.

Court opinion issued Apr. 16, 2018

Court Opinions (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Donato v. EOUSA (D.D.C.) -- finding that: (1) EOUSA properly denied pro se inmate's request for waiver of fees regarding records about alleged murder-conspiracy plot, but that agency was obliged to provide two hours of free search time and 100 pages free of charge; (2) FBI properly refused to confirm or deny existence of records about murder-conspiracy plot pursuant to Exemptions 6 and 7(C); (3) Bureau of Prisons failed to show that it conducted reasonable search and failed to justify its withholdings under Exemptions 2, 5, 6, 7(C), 7(D), 7(E), and 7(F).

Summaries of all opinions issued since April 2015 available here

FOIA News: A death in the FOIA family

Allan BlutsteinComment

Marcia S. Daniel (1953-2018)

The Blade, Apr. 17, 2018

Marcia S. Daniel, who during a more than three-decade career at the FBI worked on the Oklahoma City bombing case and helped authors and screenwriters navigate the public records process, died March 17 at Heritage Village of Waterville. She was 64.

She had Alzheimer’s, with which she was diagnosed at 53 and prompted her departure from the FBI, her sisters said.

Ms. Daniel held many roles within the bureau — organizing and labeling evidence and artifacts, testifying in court about criminal cases, and even one time leading the interior design for a new FBI building, sister Karen Shelt said. She spent years as an information agent for the FBI’s Freedom of Information Act office, conducting research of public documents for journalists, authors, and others, sister Leanna Rearick said.

Gregg Herken in his book Brotherhood of the Bomb about scientists in the Manhattan Project thanks Ms. Daniel, saying she was “a ‘FOIA angel’ at the FBI and deserves all the awards the bureau can possibly give her.”

Late in her career at the FBI, she developed ways to streamline the FOIA process for authors, and received a commendation from then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno for her work, Ms. Shelt said.

Read more here.