FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Gov't and immigration plaintiffs settle claims over FOIA backlog

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

Feds Settle With Immigration Attorneys Over FOIA Backlog

By Maria Dinzeo , Courthouse News Service, Oct. 4, 2016

Immigration attorneys and their clients have settled claims with U.S. Customs and Border Protection over thousands of unanswered Freedom of Information Act requests.    

Led by Glendale attorney Meredith Brown, a proposed class of immigration lawyers said that by the end of fiscal year 2013, the agency had a backlog of nearly 38,000 FOIA requests that had been pending for more than the 20 days permitted by the law.

They said their requests had been pending for anywhere between 5 and 25 months, and the agency's failure to respond affects the proposed class's ability to obtain legal permanent residency in the United States. 

At a motion for class certification hearing in October 2015, U.S. District Judge James Donato said the plaintiffs needed more proof that the department engaged in a pattern and practice of illegally delaying FOIA requests.

 The parties began settlement talks in March 2016.

 Stacy Tolchin, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents the plaintiffs, confirmed the settlement Tuesday.

[Note: the name of the case is Brown v. U.S. Customs & Border Patrol, 15-cv-01181-JD (N.D. Cal.)]