FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: FOIA Advisory Committee to meet Mar. 20th

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

The FOIA Advisory Committee will next meet on March 20, 2019, from 10am to 1pm, per a Federal Register notice scheduled to be published on February 19, 2019. As always, the meeting will be live-streamed on the National Archives’ YouTube channel at https:// www.youtube.com/user/usnational archives. Meeting material will be posted online at https:// www.archives.gov/ogis/foia-advisorycommittee/2018-2020-term/meetings.

FOIA News: Dep't of Labor posting more settlement agreements

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Through the Veil: OFCCP’s Transparency Results in Even Minor Contractor Violations Being Published by the Agency

By Lauren Hick& Leigh Nason, Nat’l Law Review, Feb. 14, 2019

Recently, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) began posting in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Library links to conciliation agreements between the agency and federal contractors that contain only material technical violations. Until now, the only conciliation agreements posted in OFCCP’s FOIA library have been those in which OFCCP has identified material discrimination violations.

Read more here.

FOIA News: NARA/OGIS recognizes Valentine's Day

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Will You Be Our (FOIA) Valentine?

Office of Gov’t Inf. Serv., Feb. 13, 2019

The FOIA process, like any relationship, depends on good communications. In the spirit of the season, OGIS offers Valentines greetings to FOIA stakeholders who demonstrate good communication skills every day.

  • We love all hardworking FOIA professionals, but particularly those who pick up the phone to talk to requesters. While making a call is an investment of time, it is often the most efficient way to help a requester narrow the scope of their request.

Read more here.

Court opinions dated Feb. 12, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Mabie v. USMS (S.D. Ill.) -- determining that Marshal’s Service performed adequate search for records pertaining to surveillance system installed at federal courthouse and that agency properly withheld records pursuant to Exemptions 7(E) and 7(F).

Edelman v. SEC (D.D.C.) -- denying plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees even though plaintiff substantially prevailed in underlying litigation, because agency’s actions were reasonable and no other entitlement factors favored plaintiff.

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

FOIA News: OMB sets May 10th deadline for FOIA portal plans

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

OMB sets deadline for agency FOIA interoperability plans

By Tajha Chappellet-Lanier, Fedscoop, Feb. 13, 2019

The White House Office of Management and Budget is asking agencies to get their National FOIA Portal interoperability plans in order.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 required that OMB and the Department of Justice simplify the Freedom of Information Act landscape by creating a central portal that anyone can visit to submit a request to any agency. Today, that portal lives at FOIA.gov.

Read more here.

FOIA News: HUD's FOIA-processing system offline since January

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

HUD’s System for Processing Public Records Requests Died During the Shutdown

The contract for the agency’s electronic system for managing FOIA requests lapsed in early January and hasn’t been renewed. Delays are mounting.

By Molly Parker, The Southern Illinoisan, Feb. 13, 2019

The partial federal shutdown ended weeks ago, but one lingering effect turns out to be citizens’ ability to get public records from a government agency.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s public records management and tracking system has been offline since early January, when a contract to run it lapsed.

Read more here.

Q&A: I'm sticking with the Union

Q&A (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q. Is a government contractor's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) exempt from FOIA?

A. Maybe. If the CBA is already in the public domain, then it is not exempt. If the CBA is not in public domain and it was was submitted to a federal agency as part of a contract proposal, the CBA would be fully exempt under Exemption 3 if the proposal was not successful. If the proposal was successful, however, Exemption 3 would protect any portion of the proposal that is not set forth or incorporated by reference in the contract   See generally OIP's guidance on contract proposals.

If Exemption 3 does not resolve the matter, Exemption 4 would certainly be in play, particularly if the CBA includes information such labor rates.  The agency would then need to initiate the "submitter notice" process per Executive Order 12600 and agency regulations.

FOIA News: SCOTUS sets hearing date for Exemption 4 case

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Supreme Court sets date in Argus Leader case

By John Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Feb. 11, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court has set a date to hear a case that could determine whether taxpayer payments to businesses can be considered confidential information.

The outcome of Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media could have broad implications for what the federal government can keep secret under the Freedom of Information Act. The high court will hear the case on Monday, April 22.

Read more here.