FOIA Advisor

Q&A: Stormy weather

Q&A (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Q. I filed a FOIA with NOAA in March of last year and the FOIA request has yet to be fulfilled. I reached out to inquire about the delay, taking great pains to be very patient with the process. If possible, I'd like to know how to proceed in filing an official complaint. 

A. If by "official complaint" you mean filing a lawsuit, the FOIA provides four options as to where that suit may be filed: (1) in the federal district in which you live; (2) in the federal district where you have your principal place of business; (3) in the federal district in which the agency records are located; or (4) in the District of Columbia.  You may file a complaint with or without the assistance of an attorney.  If you wish to file a lawsuit by yourself, for example in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, see the following court guidance on how to proceed:   https://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/pro-se-help.  

Short of a lawsuit, you can request assistance from the Office of Government Information Services, aka the "FOIA Ombudsman," which is a component of the National Archives and Records Administration.  Here are instructions from OGIS about how to file a request for assistance:  https://www.archives.gov/ogis/mediation-program/request-assistance.

[P.S. An agency’s FOIA Public Liaison also may be a useful resource for requesters who encounter issues with their requests. In this case, the requester noted an extensive history of interactions with agency personnel, which was omitted from the original post.]