FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2019)

FOIA News: Sunshine Week events in D.C. area next week

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Mon., Mar. 11, 2019

Tues., Mar. 12, 2019

Wed., Mar. 13, 2019

Fri., Mar. 15, 2019

FOIA News: Department of Interior E-mail Shows FOIA Request Sent for Political Review

FOIA News (2019)Kevin SchmidtComment

Bernhardt’s Interior Already Implementing Political Review of Public Records Responses

By Jayson O’Neill, Western Values Project, March 7, 2019

Just one day before a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators sent a letter to Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt requesting that the department reconsider and scrap a proposed rule that would limit public records requests, Western Values Project (WVP) received a notice from Interior that a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request would be delayed to allow a political appointee to review the response.

The email, which has been redacted by WVP to protect personal information, indicates that WVP’s request has been completed but was ‘forwarded to our Solicitor’s Office for next level review.’ This is the first indication known to WVP that Interior has created a new political review process for all of the department’s public records since Interior’s leadership installed political appointee and former Koch-employee Daniel Jorjani to oversee the department’s FOIA program in November 2018.

Read more here.

FOIA News: NHTSA faring poorly in recent FOIA litigation

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Dubious Record for Highway Safety Agency in Public Information Lawsuits

By Eli Wolfe, FairWarning,  Mar. 7, 2019

Since 2007, there have been 12 lawsuits seeking records from NHTSA, according to a review of records from the Justice Department and the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which collects federal data. Three cases are pending, but the other nine ended in court rulings or settlements requiring NHTSA to produce records for plaintiffs. None of the lawsuits ended in a judgment in NHTSA’s favor.

“They just plow forward with these cases for reasons that I don’t fully understand,” said David Sobel, an attorney with the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation who has represented plaintiffs in most of the cases.

Read more here.

FOIA News: GSA ordered to release info on FBI’s HQ bldg.

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

GSA ordered to release FBI HQ details previously redacted in FOIA request

By Jory Heckman, Fed. News Network, Mar. 6, 2019    

A district court judge has ordered the General Services Administration to release appraisal information about the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover Building, as well as offers GSA received for the property.

GSA had previously redacted that information in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Tuesday’s ruling from D.C. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper followed a ruling he made last December, ordering GSA to do a “more comprehensive search” for FBI headquarters records.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Interior asked to reconsider its proposed FOIA regs

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

In a letter sent to the Department of the Interior today, Congressman Elijah Cummings and U.S. Senators Leahy, Grassley, and Cornyn urged the Department to reconsider its proposed FOIA rule because it appeared to “restrict public access to DOI’s records and delay the processing of FOIA requests in violation of the letter and spirit of FOIA.” The Department’s proposed rule drew more than 60,000 public comments.

FOIA News: DOJ posts annual FOIA report; backlog increases 35%

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Just ahead of Sunshine Week, the Department of Justice has posted its fiscal year 2018 FOIA report. Among other data, DOJ reported that it received a total of 96,875 requests, an 18 percent increase from the previous year, and that it processed 91,383 requests. Notably, the number of DOJ’s backlogged (i.e., overdue) requests increased 35 percent, from 12,863 requests in FY 2017 to 17,411 requests in FY 2018. The Department incurred $83.9 million in processing and litigation costs and collected only $28,000 in fees.

FOIA News: Legal academics infrequently use FOIA

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

How, and How Often, Do Legal Academics Use FOIA?

By Ryan Scoville, Lawfare, Mar. 4, 2019

Since its enactment in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has served as a significant source of transparency in government, allowing anyone to access official records that would otherwise be unavailable to the public. Legal academics have analyzed the statute in numerous law review articles, most of which seem to embrace FOIA’s underlying goals. Yet the actual use of FOIA and its state-law equivalents in legal academia has been quite limited. By my count, fewer than 60 law review articles in the entire Westlaw database report that the author obtained or tried to obtain records under a freedom-of-information law in carrying out the underlying research. In other words, law professors generally embrace transparency—but have traditionally relied upon others to supply it.

Read more here.

FOIA News: FOIA Advisory Committee meeting agenda now available

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Mark Your Calendars: Wednesday, March 20, 2019 FOIA Advisory Committee Meeting

OGIS Blog, Feb. 27, 2019

An academic snapshot of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) administration will be the focus of the next FOIA Advisory Committee meeting on March 20, 2019, in the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

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Professors Khaldoun AbouAssi and Tina Nabatchi, of American University and Syracuse University, respectively, will present findings from their analysis of government-wide FOIA data that reveals trends in how FOIA is administered by Federal government agencies.

Read more here.