FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Remarks of Principal Deputy Associate AG at Sunshine Week Event

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio Delivers Remarks at the Sunshine Week Kick-Off Event

FOIA Post, Mar. 11, 2019

Thank you, Melanie, for that introduction and, as always, for your exemplary leadership on government transparency.  I have now had the pleasure of working with you for more than two years on these issues, and I think this is the third Sunshine Week we have kicked off together.  Thank you for your tireless and excellent work as a government leader on Freedom of Information Act policy and administration.  The American people are fortunate to have you in their service.

The same holds true for the many professionals here today who have devoted their careers to government transparency.  Welcome, all, to the Department of Justice.  We are so pleased you could join us for the kick-off of this year’s Sunshine Week.  This week is an opportunity for us to recognize the importance of transparency in government and the many contributions of civil servants dedicated to that goal.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Exemption 4 FOIA trial looming on defense subcontracts

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Pentagon Loses Secrecy Bid

Federal Court Rejects Government Bid to Toss Suit, Sets Rare Trial in Freedom of Information Act Case

Business Wire, Mar. 11, 2019

On Friday, March 8, a federal judge rejected a bid by the Pentagon to squelch a lawsuit brought by the American Small Business League (“ASBL”) seeking to shed light on whether big defense contractors are giving a fair share of billions of dollars to small businesses.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup in San Francisco paves the way for a rare trial in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case. The ruling came just before the start of National Sunshine Week, March 10, which raises public awareness on Freedom of Information cases and the importance of holding public officials and government agencies accountable.

Read more here.

Copy of decision here.

Court opinions issued Mar. 8, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Am. Small Bus. League v. DOD (N.D. Cal., 2019) -- ruling that: (1) DOD performed reasonable search for contracting records and communications between government and contractor in earlier FOIA litigation; (2) agency improperly relied on Exemption 3 (Procurement Integrity Act ) to withhold subcontracting performance and compliance records relating to contracts that were already awarded; (3) neither party established absence of material facts regarding applicability of Exemption 4 to subcontracting plans; (4) DOD release all communications that were not legitimately made pursuant to a joint defense agreement (unless protected by another FOIA exemption); and (5) agency properly withheld third-party information pursuant to Exemption 6, to which plaintiff did not object.

Niro v. IRS (D. Mass.) -- determining that agency performed adequate search for audit records concerning plaintiff’s tax returns and that it properly withheld records pursuant to Exemptions 3, 7(C), and 7(E).

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

FOIA News: Sunshine Week is upon us

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Sunshine Week Puts Spotlight on Accessing Government Information

Sunday marks the start of Sunshine Week, an effort to highlight the role of freedom of information at all levels of the U.S. government.

The week brings together a range of groups including media outlets, government officials, nonprofit organizations, schools, and libraries in an effort to promote and explain the importance of open government and how individuals and groups can access government data.

Kevin Goldberg, the legal counsel for the American Society of News Editors — the group that organizes Sunshine Week along with Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — told VOA that one of the main goals for the week is to educate people on what it means to have an open government and why that is important.

Read more here.

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.

Court opinion issued Mar. 7, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Beagles v. DOL (D.N.M.) -- finding that: (1) plaintiff failed to administratively appeal withholdings from certain records concerning his former employer; (2) DOL properly withheld third-party information pursuant to Exemption 6; and (3) plaintiff was neither eligible nor entitled to attorney’s fees, despite agency’s five-year delay in adjudicating his administrative appeal.

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