FOIA Advisor

Q&A: Is this request reasonably described?

Q&A (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q.  How specific does a request have to be?  We received a request asking for all documents containing information regarding our "electronic message center."

A.   A federal FOIA request must reasonably describe the records sought, which means that agency staff has the ability to reasonably ascertain exactly which records are being requested and to locate them.   Several courts have held that requests for "all documents" that "pertain to" or "relate to" a broad subject are not reasonably described.  For additional guidance on this subject,  see DOJ Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, Proper FOIA Requests.