FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Sixth Circuit considers en banc review of mug shot case; guidance from FOIA Ombudsman on providing estimated dates of completion

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

En Banc Review Possible for MI Mug Shot Case

By Kevin Koeninger, Courthouse News Service, April 23, 2015 

CINCINNATI (CN) - A 6th Circuit panel seemed open on Wednesday to a possible en banc review of case law regarding the release of mug shots under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Detroit Free Press Inc. - which has been litigating the issue for over two decades - tried to convince the panel during oral arguments to keep the status quo, which allows for the release of mug shots if certain criteria are met.

The U.S. Department of Justice, however, seeks a full court review of the issue, and its attorney stressed that a person undoubtedly has "a non-trivial privacy interest in [his or her] mug shot."

Remainder of story here.

Audio of oral argument here

Let's Talk About Estimated Dates of Completion

Office of Government Information Services, April 23, 2015

In 2007 Congress added a provision into the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that requires agencies to provide a requester with an estimated date by which the agency expects to complete work on a request, when the requester asks for one. This requirement helps the requester better understand the agency’s FOIA process and gives the requester a more accurate picture of when he/she will receive a response.

 We’ve previously discussed how important it is for an agency to provide an estimated date of completion if the agency wants to avoid a lawsuit and we’ve even given agencies a couple of tips on how they can come up with an estimated date of completion.

While it is clear that providing estimated dates of completion is a good idea – both from a compliance and customer service standpoint – we understand that actually coming up with a date can feel like a moving target. Further, we hear from some FOIA professionals that they are hesitant to provide an estimated date of completion because requesters might treat the estimate like a firm deadline.

Read more here.