FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2018)

FOIA News: Dep't of Interior to amend regs in response to FOIA burdens

FOIA News (2018)Allan Blutstein3 Comments

Due to “exponential increases in requests and litigation,” the Department of the Interior issued a proposed rule on December 28, 2018, that would revise its FOIA regulations. Among the proposed changes, the Department would be able to “impose a monthly limit for processing records in response to your request in order to treat FOIA requesters equitably by responding to a greater number of FOIA requests each month.’’ Additionally, the Department may reject a request as unreasonably described if the request requires the agency to “locate, review, redact, or arrange for inspection of a vast quantity of material.”

Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted on or before January 28, 2019.

FOIA News: Court questions White House review of Kushner records

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Bureaucrats flagged White House on questions about Kushner. A judge says that's not normal

By Curt Devine, CNN, Dec. 20, 2018

A federal judge is questioning the White House's role in reviewing government documents related to a freedom-of-information lawsuit for records concerning President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.

The nonprofit watchdog organization Democracy Forward is suing agencies including US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security for information that could indicate whether Kushner had any involvement in discussions about the extension of a program offering foreigners who invest in US businesses, including real estate, visas and a path to a US green card. The Kushner family's real estate company has used the program to court investors.

Read more here.

FOIA News: NRC to increase FOIA fees

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a direct final rule yesterday that would increase its hourly search rates, which were last changed in 2010. Specifically, searches performed by clerical staff would increase from a GS–7/step 6 salary rate to a GS–9/step 7 salary rate, and searches performed by professional staff would increase from a GG–13/step 6 salary rate to a GG–14/ step 7 salary rate.

This direct final rule is effective March 4, 2019, unless “significant adverse comments” are received by January 18, 2019.

FOIA News: Trump's tax records off limits, rules D.C. Circuit

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

A Washington, D.C. Circuit judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday requesting access to President Donald Trump’s tax records.

By Virginia Kuta, Daily Caller, Dec. 18, 2018

Judge Karen Lecraft Henderson, who was appointed a United States Circuit judge by the late President George H.W. Bush in 1990, dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

The lawsuit followed EPIC’s two attempts to first obtain the records through the IRS shortly after the 2016 election. After the request and a subsequent appeal were denied, EPIC filed the FOIA lawsuit to compel the IRS to release the records.

Read more here.

Copy of decision here.

FOIA News: APA might save the day for failed 9th Circuit case

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Ninth Circuit May Revive Suit to Restore USDA Animal-Welfare Portal

Helen Christophi, Courthouse News Serv., Dec. 17, 2018

The Ninth Circuit on Monday signaled it will likely revive a public-records lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture which seeks to restore online access to animal welfare compliance records which was removed two years ago over privacy concerns.

During a hearing in San Francisco, the court’s three-judge panel seemed to agree animal-rights groups can’t win back online access to the records under the Freedom of Information Act. But two judges suggested the plaintiffs can sue for them under a separate statute that allows for judicial review of decisions by federal agencies.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Government FOIA jobs available

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Gov’t Inf. Specialist, USDA, Washington, D.C. (closes 12/16)

FOIA Specialist, U.S. Air Force, New Mexico (closes 12/17)

Supervisory Gov’t Inf. Specialist, HHS, Washington D.C. (closes 12/18)

General Attorney (FOIA), Dep’t of Educ., Washington, D.C. (closes 12/18)

Gov’t Inf. Specialist, CFPB, Washington, D.C. (closes 12/18)

Ass’t Disclosure Officer, Secret Service, Washington, D.C. (closes 12/19)

Gov’t Inf. Specialist, U.S. Air Force, Wyoming (closes 12/21)

Supervisory Gov’t Inf. Specialist, DHS/CIS, Missouri (closes 12/24)

Gov’t Inf. Specialist, Bureau of Ocean Energy Mgmt., Washington, D.C. (closes 12/26)

FOIA News: OGIS announces dispute resolution training

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

Dispute Resolution Training for Agencies

Nat’l Archives & Records Admin., FOIA Ombudsman, Dec. 12, 2018

Are you looking for a unique training opportunity for your agency’s FOIA staff, one that will improve communications within your FOIA program and with FOIA requesters? If so, now is a great time to schedule 2019 Dispute Resolution Training for FOIA Professionals for your agency.

OGIS offers our training program twice yearly to any interested FOIA professional, and those sessions fill up as quickly as they are announced. Additionally, we offer training sessions to individual agencies as our schedule allows. This free, daylong training session helps FOIA professionals develop valuable communication skills for preventing and resolving FOIA disputes. Attendees also learn strategies for working with difficult people and ways to collaborate with OGIS to resolve FOIA disputes that seem intractable. These skills and strategies help attendees improve their interactions with FOIA requesters as well as colleagues within their agencies.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Dep't of the Interior political appointee named Chief FOIA Officer

FOIA News (2018)Ryan MulveyComment

Former Koch adviser to oversee Interior Department’s FOIA requests

Miranda Green, The Hill, Dec. 10, 2018

A political appointee and former adviser to Charles and David Koch will oversee Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests sent to the Interior Department, a position typically held by career staff.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last month quietly issued a secretarial order giving Daniel Jorjani the authority to oversee all FOIA requests at the agency, according to a document obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

Jorjani, who Zinke previously appointed as principal deputy solicitor and who has been serving as acting solicitor, will serve as chief FOIA officer, according to the Nov. 20 decree. Trump never submitted a formal nomination for a solicitor at the agency.

Read more here.

FOIA News: More on Lamberth's lambasting of State and Justice departments

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Good Faith or Bad?

Susan McGuire Smith, FedSmith, Dec. 10, 2018

The court indicated once discovery ends, Judge Lamberth will then see if [the court] “can rule out egregious government misconduct…” (Opinion p. 9)

This scathing opinion starts by quoting President Obama’s standard for his new administration’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) issued on his first day as President. In the new President’s policy, he used words like “openness prevails…act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation…agencies are servants of the public…presumption in favor of disclosure…” etc. (Opinion p. 1)

Read more here.

FOIA News: Court hammers gov't over Clinton emails; orders discovery to look into egregious conduct

FOIA News (2018)Allan BlutsteinComment

Judge orders Justice, State departments to reopen narrow inquiry into handling of Clinton email records lawsuit

By Spencer S. Hsu, Wash. Post, Dec. 6, 2018

A U.S. judge ordered the Justice and State departments Thursday to reopen an inquiry into whether Hillary Clinton used a private email server while secretary of state to deliberately evade public records laws and to answer whether the agencies acted in bad faith by not telling a court for months that they had asked in mid-2014 for missing emails to be returned.

Read more here.

Copy of decision appears in “Court opinions”