FOIA Advisor

Sample administrative FOIA appeals

  • Appeal by Cause of Action challenging the Department of Agriculture’s use of Exemption 5 (attorney-client privilege) to withhold White House communications with the agency. 
  • Appeal by Cause of Action concerning the adequacy of the search performed by the Securities and Exchange Commission for records of its FOIA consultations with the White House.

  • Appeal by the Center for Competitive Politics from a denial by the Federal Election Commission pursuant to Exemptions 5 (deliberative process, attorney work-product, and attorney-client privileges) and 7(E).
  • Appeals by Judicial Watch disputing the adequacy of search performed by the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the agency’s denials of requests for news media status and a fee waiver (see internal Exhibit C).

  • Appeal by National Security Archive of the National Security Agency’s invocation of Exemption 1 and 3 concerning death of Secretary-General of United Nations in 1961. 
  • Appeal by Public Citizen in response to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s reliance on Exemptions 3, 5 (deliberative process privilege), and 7(E). 

Sample Complaints

Below are a selection of FOIA Complaints categorized by the cause of action for the lawsuit.  Additional Complaints may located via the FOIA Project, which maintains a searchable archive of FOIA litigation documents and statistics.     


Agency's failure to respond to request

Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. EPA (D.D.C. 2017) (one-month delay)

Cause of Action v. DOJ (D.D.C. 2017) (two-month delay)

Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. DHS (D.D.C. 2015) (three-month delay)

Judicial Watch v. DOD (D.D.C. 2014) (four-month delay)

Nat’l Security Archive v. CIA (D.D.C. 2011) (five-year delay) 

Natural Res. Def. Council v. NOAA (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (ten-month delay)



Am. Civil Liberties Union v. DOJ (N.D. Cal. 2017) (adequacy of search; Exemption 5, 6, and 7(C))

Citizens for Ethics & Responsibility in Washington v. DOJ (D.D.C. 2013) (challenging Criminal Division’s refusal to confirm or deny existence of records pursuant to Exemptions 6 and 7(C))

Humane Soc’y of the U.S. v. USDA (D.D.C. 2010) (Exemptions 4 and 6)

Judicial Watch v. IRS (D.D.C. 2015 (adequacy of search)

L.A. Times et al. v.  DOD (C.D. Cal. 2015) (Exemption 4)

N.Y. Times et al. v. DOJ (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (Exemptions 5, 6, and 7(E))

Pub. Emp. for Envtl. Responsibility v.  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv. (D.D.C. 2014) (Exemption 5)

ProPublica v. FEMA (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (Exemption 6)

Williams & Connolly LLP v. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (D.D.C. 2013) (Exemption 8)


Fees and fee waivers

Cause of Action v. FTC (D.D.C. 2012) (disputing agency’s denial of public interest fee waiver and news media fee category)

Long v. DHS (D.D.C. 2014) (seeking fee category of educational institution and news media)