FOIA Fee Waivers Protected
By Spender Brignac, Project On Government Oversight Sept. 14, 2015
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously protected the Freedom of Information Act’s (FOIA) public interest fee waiver and news media fee classification, preventing federal agencies from using fees as a weapon against public access to government information.
Cause of Action, an advocacy group promoting transparency and accountability, submitted a FOIA request to the Federal Trade Commission about changes to “product-endorsement guides” and “documents concerning the FTC’s history of granting public-interest fee waivers.” The FTC categorized Cause of Action as commercial and refused to grant its request for a public interest fee waiver or, in the alternative, to be classified as a member of the media. Cause of Action then filed a lawsuit.
The district court agreed with the FTC’s FOIA policy, and Cause of Action appealed the district court ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned the district court decision and remanded the case to the trial court with new criteria for interpreting FOIA.
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