FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Judge finalizes discovery plan in Clinton email suit

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Judge orders Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes to answer written Benghazi questions in Clinton email lawsuit

By Samuel Chamberlain, Fox News, Jan. 15, 2019

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that former national security adviser Susan Rice and former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes must answer written questions about the State Department's response to the deadly 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, as part of an ongoing legal battle over whether Hillary Clinton sought to deliberately evade public record laws by using a private email server while secretary of state.

Read more here.

FOIA News: MuckRock on Upcoming SCOTUS FOIA Case

FOIA News (2019)Kevin SchmidtComment

Upcoming Supreme Court case could hand broadened FOIA censorship powers to corporations

By Michael Morisy, MuckRock, Jan. 15, 2019

Does your right to know which companies are receiving your tax dollars outweigh those companies’ rights to competitive secrets?

That’s the question at stake in an upcoming Supreme Court case set to be heard in April, and the result could either cement the public’s right to know or severely restrict the ability to track the flow of tax dollars into private companies.

“This could be a monumental FOIA case. It could be very good, or this could be disaster for FOIA, depending on what happens here,” said Jonathan Ellisan investigative reporter with the Argus Leader.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Interior rule comments still unavailable

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Another shutdown victim: FOIA rules debate

Michael Doyle, E&E News, Jan. 15, 2019

The partial government shutdown has muted public debate over an Interior Department proposal that would effectively impose new limits on the Freedom of Information Act.

Halfway into a public review period scheduled to end Jan. 28, Interior has logged at least 1,219 comments. That's been enough to periodically vault the department's FOIA proposals into the ranks of "trending" on the federal government's Regulations.gov website.

Read more here.

FOIA News: SCOTUS to hear FOIA case

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

How a South Dakota FOIA request landed in the U.S. Supreme Court

Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Jan. 11, 2019

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that will decide whether the public has a right to know how much taxpayer money grocers, gas stations, big box retailers and others get by participating in the federal food stamp program.

Read more here.

See SCOTUS Blog case summary here.

FOIA News: SCOTUS grants cert in Exemption 4 FOIA Case

FOIA News (2019)Ryan MulveyComment

The Supreme Court of the United States today granted the petition for a writ of certiorari in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media. The Argus Leader case concerns the construction and application of Exemption 4, which covers trade secrets and privilege or confidential commercial or financial information. FOIA Advisor identified the contested Eight Circuit opinion as one of its “Top federal FOIA decisions of 2018.”

The last FOIA decision issued by the Supreme Court was in Milner v. Department of the Navy, 131 S. Ct. 1259 (2011), which involved the use of Exemption 2. A few years ago, however, Justice Thomas published an interesting dissent from the denial of a petition for a writ of certiorari in New Hampshire Right to Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, 136 S. Ct. 383 (2015), in which he signaled a desire to address the “amorphous” Exemption 4 tests that had developed amongst the circuit courts and return instead to the “ordinary meaning” of the word “confidential.”

Court opinions issued Jan. 9, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Democracy Forward Found. v. White House Office of Am. Innovation (D.D.C.) -- ruling that White House Office of American Innovation is not an “agency” subject to FOIA requests because it is “an entity within the White House Office which does not exercise substantial authority independent of the President.”

Grynberg v. DOJ (2nd Cir.) -- summarily affirming district court’s decision that agency properly withheld records pursuant to Exemption 3 in conjunction with Rule 6(e) of Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the United States and Switzerland.

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

FOIA News: Court orders EPA to release communications with industry groups

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Court orders EPA to release Andrew Wheeler’s contacts with outside groups within 10 months

By Dino Grandoni, Wash. Post, Jan. 7, 2019

A federal judge has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to release tens of thousands of emails and other documents involving the agency’s top-level political appointees — including acting chief Andrew Wheeler — in a move activists hope will clarify how industry interests may be influencing their decisions.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in a Dec. 26 ruling, ordered the release of about 20,000 emails exchanged between industry groups and 25 Trump officials within the next 10 months. The timeline will start as soon as the federal government fully reopens.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Public floods Interior with comments on proposed FOIA regs

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

As of Monday night, January 7, 2019, the Department of the Interior has received 199 public comments in response to the agency’s proposed FOIA regulations issued on December 28, 2018. None of the comments are publicly available, however, which might be due to the government shutdown. The deadline to submit comments is January 28, 2019.

Screenshot of Regulations.gov website.

Screenshot of Regulations.gov website.