FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Judicial Watch loses Clinton-related suit due to flawed request

FOIA News (2015-16)Allan BlutsteinComment

State notches win in Clinton email lawsuit over bad wording

By Julian Hattem, The Hill, April 6, 2016

The State Department on Wednesday scored a victory in one of the multiple, ongoing open records lawsuits related to Hillary Clinton’s personal email server because the request was overly broad.

Last year, the conservative legal watchdog group Judicial Watch asked the State Department to hand over “the number and names of all current and former officials, officers or employees” who had used any email accounts other than official “” emails for work purposes. The request appeared designed to determine who, in addition to Clinton, a former secretary of State and the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, had used non-governmental email accounts for official business.

But the State Department interpreted the request to be asking for a list of all employees who used alternate email addresses, which it did not have.

On Wednesday, a federal judge agreed, ruling that the poorly worded request pushed it outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Judicial Watch’s request, Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote, “is really a question that asks ‘who at the State Department used private email for conducting official business?’”

“A question is not a request for records under FOIA and an agency has no duty to answer a question posed as a FOIA request.”

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