FOIA Advisor

FOIA News (2019)

FOIA News: Judge finalizes discovery plan in Clinton email suit

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Judge orders Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes to answer written Benghazi questions in Clinton email lawsuit

By Samuel Chamberlain, Fox News, Jan. 15, 2019

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that former national security adviser Susan Rice and former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes must answer written questions about the State Department's response to the deadly 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, as part of an ongoing legal battle over whether Hillary Clinton sought to deliberately evade public record laws by using a private email server while secretary of state.

Read more here.

FOIA News: MuckRock on Upcoming SCOTUS FOIA Case

FOIA News (2019)Kevin SchmidtComment

Upcoming Supreme Court case could hand broadened FOIA censorship powers to corporations

By Michael Morisy, MuckRock, Jan. 15, 2019

Does your right to know which companies are receiving your tax dollars outweigh those companies’ rights to competitive secrets?

That’s the question at stake in an upcoming Supreme Court case set to be heard in April, and the result could either cement the public’s right to know or severely restrict the ability to track the flow of tax dollars into private companies.

“This could be a monumental FOIA case. It could be very good, or this could be disaster for FOIA, depending on what happens here,” said Jonathan Ellisan investigative reporter with the Argus Leader.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Interior rule comments still unavailable

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Another shutdown victim: FOIA rules debate

Michael Doyle, E&E News, Jan. 15, 2019

The partial government shutdown has muted public debate over an Interior Department proposal that would effectively impose new limits on the Freedom of Information Act.

Halfway into a public review period scheduled to end Jan. 28, Interior has logged at least 1,219 comments. That's been enough to periodically vault the department's FOIA proposals into the ranks of "trending" on the federal government's Regulations.gov website.

Read more here.

FOIA News: SCOTUS to hear FOIA case

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

How a South Dakota FOIA request landed in the U.S. Supreme Court

Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Jan. 11, 2019

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that will decide whether the public has a right to know how much taxpayer money grocers, gas stations, big box retailers and others get by participating in the federal food stamp program.

Read more here.

See SCOTUS Blog case summary here.

FOIA News: SCOTUS grants cert in Exemption 4 FOIA Case

FOIA News (2019)Ryan MulveyComment

The Supreme Court of the United States today granted the petition for a writ of certiorari in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media. The Argus Leader case concerns the construction and application of Exemption 4, which covers trade secrets and privilege or confidential commercial or financial information. FOIA Advisor identified the contested Eight Circuit opinion as one of its “Top federal FOIA decisions of 2018.”

The last FOIA decision issued by the Supreme Court was in Milner v. Department of the Navy, 131 S. Ct. 1259 (2011), which involved the use of Exemption 2. A few years ago, however, Justice Thomas published an interesting dissent from the denial of a petition for a writ of certiorari in New Hampshire Right to Life v. Department of Health and Human Services, 136 S. Ct. 383 (2015), in which he signaled a desire to address the “amorphous” Exemption 4 tests that had developed amongst the circuit courts and return instead to the “ordinary meaning” of the word “confidential.”

FOIA News: Court orders EPA to release communications with industry groups

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

Court orders EPA to release Andrew Wheeler’s contacts with outside groups within 10 months

By Dino Grandoni, Wash. Post, Jan. 7, 2019

A federal judge has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to release tens of thousands of emails and other documents involving the agency’s top-level political appointees — including acting chief Andrew Wheeler — in a move activists hope will clarify how industry interests may be influencing their decisions.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in a Dec. 26 ruling, ordered the release of about 20,000 emails exchanged between industry groups and 25 Trump officials within the next 10 months. The timeline will start as soon as the federal government fully reopens.

Read more here.

FOIA News: Public floods Interior with comments on proposed FOIA regs

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

As of Monday night, January 7, 2019, the Department of the Interior has received 199 public comments in response to the agency’s proposed FOIA regulations issued on December 28, 2018. None of the comments are publicly available, however, which might be due to the government shutdown. The deadline to submit comments is January 28, 2019.

Screenshot of Regulations.gov website.

Screenshot of Regulations.gov website.

FOIA News: Interior not accepting FOIA requests during shutdown

FOIA News (2019)Ryan MulveyComment

Interior Department won’t accept FOIA requests during shutdown

Miranda Green, The Hill, Jan. 4, 2019

The Interior Department is not accepting public requests for information during the partial government shutdown, which is now in its 14th day with no end in sight.

The agency’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request website--an automated site that typically accepts requests through drop-down menus--is no longer receiving new submissions.

Members of the press, advocacy groups and individuals looking to request public information are now greeted with a message that reads: “No FOIA requests can be accepted or processed at this time.”

Interior spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort said the lapse in funding is why the agency cannot accept new submissions.

Read more here.

FOIA News: USPS IG releases report on Spanberger’s personnel file

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

USPS IG clears conservative group of wrongdoing in Spanberger file release

At least 6 other former employees had their files improperly released after FOIA requests, IG found

By Griffin Connolly Roll Call, Jan. 4, 2019

The U.S. Postal Service inspector general officially cleared a prominent conservative research group of any wrongdoing for getting its hands on Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s complete and unredacted official personnel file last summer.

America Rising, a conservative opposition research group contracted by dozens of conservative PACs and campaign committees each election cycle to dig up dirt on Democratic candidates, went through the proper channels, submitting a Freedom of Information Act request for Spanberger’s file to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the IG concluded in its report released in late December.

Read more here.

[P.S. I submitted the FOIA request in question on behalf of America Rising Corp.]

FOIA News: FOIA trends for 2019

FOIA News (2019)Allan BlutsteinComment

3 Trends to Watch in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests for 2019

Keep an eye on the increased scrutiny of public officials’ and government agencies’ business conduct, slow responses to FOIA filings, and a growing awareness of privacy and cybersecurity topics.

By Jon Kerry-Tyerman, Legaltech News, Jan. 2, 2019

Want a preview of next year’s trends in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and responses? Here’s a hint: Topics in the public consciousness tend to play a big role. As 2019 approaches, keep an eye on the increased scrutiny of public officials’ and government agencies’ business conduct, slow responses to FOIA filings, and a growing awareness of privacy and cybersecurity topics when planning your department’s resources to prepare or respond to FOIA requests.

This follows the experience of 2017 and 2018, when legal news and trends bore a strong resemblance to one another. Increasingly, “all news is national,” with news out of D.C. and big corporations dominating legal headlines.

Here are three tends to look for in 2019:

Read more here.