FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: DOJ releases name of former U.S. Attorney who committed misconduct

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

The Justice Department Spent Nearly Two Years Fighting To Hide The Identity Of A US Attorney Accused Of Misconduct

A federal judge ordered DOJ to release the now-former US attorney’s name after BuzzFeed News sued.

By Zoe Tillman, BuzzFeed News, May 20, 2019

The Justice Department’s inspector general announced in May 2017 that an unnamed US attorney, who had since retired, committed misconduct in office. He’d had an affair with a subordinate, according to the one-page release, created a hostile work environment, and potentially violated department sexual harassment rules.

Two years later — after BuzzFeed News went to court — a judge found that the public’s interest in bad behavior by top government officials outweighed their right to privacy and forced the Justice Department to release his name late last week: Stephen Wigginton, who served as a US attorney in Illinois from 2010 to 2015.

Read more here.

Court opinion issued May 17, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Proctor v. NARA (N.D. Cal.) -- finding that: (1) agency properly relied on Exemption 3 in conjunction with Rule Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) to withhold plaintiff's 1998 deposition transcript regarding Monica Lewinsky, except as to the identities of the prosecutors, the court reporter, and plaintiff; and (2) court did not have inherent authority to release remaining deposition transcript; that authority belonged to the Eastern District of Virginia, under whose supervision the transcript was produced.

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

Court opinions issued May 16, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Humane Soc'y v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv. (E.D. Va.) -- concluding that: (1) agency released copies of all requested African elephant and lion trophy permits, which mooted plaintiff’s claim; and (2) FOIA’s reading room provision did not obligate government to publish permitting records created in the future on a continuous basis.

Willis v. FBI (D.D.C.) -- finding that FBI performed adequate search for records concerning plaintiff and that it properly withheld name of agency employee pursuant to Exemption 6.

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

FOIA News: DOJ's Civil Division complains about FOIA requests

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Watchdogs Use FOIA as a ‘Weapon,’ Justice Department Complains

The memo acknowledges a salient fact: There are more people than ever taking it upon themselves to inform the general public about the activities of the U.S. government.

By Lachlan Markay, Daily Beast, May 16, 2019

The Department of Justice complained in early 2018 that nonprofit good-government groups were weaponizing federal open-records laws, according to a memo obtained, appropriately enough, through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“A host of government watchdog groups now essentially seek to use FOIA requests and related litigation as a weapon in the political and advocacy process,” reads the memo, authored by the DOJ’s civil division, which is charged with defending the government in FOIA lawsuits.

Read more here (subscription required)

FOIA News: Spanberger-related docs released

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Closing the Book on Spanberger’s SF-86

By Evan Kielar & Scott R. Anderson, Lawfare, May 13, 2019

Last year, one of us filed a “meta-FOIA” request with Benjamin Wittes seeking information on how former CIA officer and then-congressional candidate (now congresswoman) Abigail Spanberger’s unredacted SF-86 form was released in response to a right-wing advocacy group’s FOIA request. We petitioned both the National Archives and Records Administrations (NARA) and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), each of which had played a role in the release.

Read more here.

Court opinions issued May 8 and May 10, 2019

Court Opinions (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

May 10, 2019

Scott v. U.S. Attorney Offices (D. Md.) -- dismissing lawsuit after determining that plaintiff failed to appeal EOUSA’s initial response to his request and that EOUSA released all responsive records.

May 8, 2019

Chetal v. U.S. Dep't of Interior (N.D. Cal.) -- denying plaintiff’s motion for sanctions after finding that government produced records ordered to be released.

Am. Civil Liberties Union of Me. Found. v. DHS (D. Me.) -- upholding in part DHS’s Exemption 7(E) redactions to records concerning immigration investigations in which government officers stopped bus passengers to ask whether they are United States citizens.

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