FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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July 1, 2015 9:26 AM

(CN) - Two professors are entitled to lower processing fees for a public records request because its purpose is educational and journalistic, a federal judge ruled.

Syracuse University professors Susan Long and David Burnham filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in November 2013, seeking electronic data from the ICE database. Long and Burnham's request was filed on behalf of Syracuse's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC.  Continue>>>

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July 1, 2015 9:11 AM

The D.C. Council insisted in the Budget Support Act passed June 30 that police body-worn camera video be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

It refused to give the Metropolitan Police Department and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser what they wanted, a statute declaring that BWC videos are not public records and cannot be requested under the FOI Act. It also refused to give in to dire claims that it will cost $1.5 million annually to process FOIA requests for BWC video and to redact recordings to protect personal privacy and law enforcement investigations.  Continue>>>

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June 26, 2015 9:46 AM

BRIDGEPORT — If elected City Council members want information from Mayor Bill Finch’s administration, they can always do what John and Jane Q Public does — file a Freedom of Information request and get in line.

That can mean waiting weeks and sometimes months for the data.

That was one of the recommendations City Attorney Mark Anastasi made in a four-page response to renewed efforts by Councilman Enrique Torres, R-130, to try and force agency heads to be more responsive to individual council member requests.  Continue>>>

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June 25, 2015 10:13 AM

A top official at a controversial U.S. export finance agency deleted text messages sent within days of the 2014 midterm elections after a watchdog group filed an open records request for the messages, the agency admitted recently.

The watchdog group, Cause of Action, said the deletion amounts to “unlawful destruction of federal records” in a legal complaint filed on Wednesday.  Continue>>>

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June 23, 2015 3:02 PM

CHATHAM - A judge has dismissed a petition filed by three residents against the Pittsylania County Agricultural Development Board. However, he granted them reasonable attorney fees they had requested in the case.

"I'm dismissing the petition because I'm not convinced there's a need for it," said Pittsylvania County General District Court Judge J. Larry Palmer.  Continue>>>

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FOIA, FOIA lawsuit, Virginia
June 23, 2015 9:11 AM

Western Watersheds Project has filed a federal lawsuit against Wildlife Services, saying the federal agency hasn’t responded to its Freedom of Information Act requests for documents detailing its activities in killing wildlife in Idaho. Talasi Brooks, an attorney with Advocates for the West, which is representing the conservation group in the case, said, “The Freedom of Information Act’s basic purpose is to open agency action to the light of public scrutiny.

Wildlife Services has never disclosed the full nature, extent and environmental impacts of its Idaho operations. We hope this lawsuit will force the agency to produce the information requested so we can make sure Idahoans know what Wildlife Services is up to in our state.”  Continue>>>

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June 19, 2015 9:23 AM

ST. JOSEPH - Requesting government documents through Michigan's Freedom of Information Act is getting a lot freer, James McGovern, Berrien County's attorney, told county commissioners Thursday.

"They can't miss how easy it is to make a FOIA request," McGovern said of the new state law that went into effect this year making obtaining documents more convenient and more affordable.

Commissioners will vote next week on a resolution approving the changes. If passed, FOIA request forms will be on the county website by June 30, McGovern said.  Continue>>>

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FOIA, Michigan, open records
June 17, 2015 12:58 PM

Multiple whistleblowers have come forward from the U.S. Marshals Service, claiming that leadership within the agency uses requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to retaliate against individuals because they sought to report various abuses of power.

Among the claims made by the whistleblowers is that the U.S. Marshals Service has a major problem with nepotism. One cited example is that Kimberly Beal, the agency’s assistant director, allegedly hired a family member to be an intern in her office and then approved multiple cross-country trips for the individual. Those trips are only supposed to be approved for criminal investigators. According to the whistleblowers, issues like these are regular occurrences within the U.S. Marshals Service.  Continue>>>

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June 16, 2015 10:41 AM

ALBANY–A bill shortening the time a state agency can take to appeal a Freedom of Information Law decision passed the Senate on Monday, three months after passing the Assembly.

The measure, sponsored by Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, a Republican from Western New York, and Assemblyman David Buchwald, a Westchester Democrat, passed both houses unanimously.

If a court decides an agency’s rejection of a records request was improper, the agency can currently file an appeal and take up to nine months to complete it. The new bill would require the agency to file notice within 30 days, then file a brief within 60 days. The appeal would then “be given preference” before the court, thus limiting the time an agency can drag out the process.  Continue>>>

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FOIA, FOIA appeals, new york
June 15, 2015 1:55 PM

Advocates for reform of DC Jail reported Thursday (11) on six recommendations about facilities and programs, but they save the seventh to blast the District government for how hard it had been to track down facts about the Jail and the privately-run annex, CTF.

"Public records are difficult to obtain," wrote the authors. "The process for obtaining public records regarding the District's correctional system is complex, time-consuming, occasionally befuddling, and sometimes fruitless."  

The 53-page report, from the D.C. Prisoners Rights Project of the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, was released at a press event at the Covington & Burling law firm that contributed staff for the research. The analysis was overseen by an advisory committee of retired and senior D.C. and federal judges, John Ferren, Rufus King, Ricardo Urbina and Patricia Wald.  Continue>>>

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June 12, 2015 9:45 AM

A new era of transparency in West Virginia begins today, as revisions to the state’s Freedom of Information Act officially become enacted.

“All West Virginians benefit from these changes to the state’s Freedom of Information Act,” said Don Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Press Association

The new law, which Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed in April, makes significant changes to the state’s Freedom of Information Act.  Continue>>>

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June 9, 2015 9:26 AM

At the Treasury Department, the memo came down from the deputy executive secretary, Wally Adeyemo, in December of 2009. Going forward, the memo stated, “sensitive information” requested under the Freedom of Information Act was to be reviewed not only by career FOIA officials but also by a committee of political appointees, including Adeyemo and representatives from the public-affairs, legislative-affairs, and general counsel’s office, before release.

What followed was an unusual review of Treasury FOIA requests by high-ranking political officials. And it didn’t just happen at Treasury, but at the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security, too. Current and former FOIA attorneys at these agencies say documents requested by the media have come in for special scrutiny, called “sensitive review,” often holding up release for weeks or months. At times, these officials say, political officials delayed the production of documents for political convenience.   Continue>>>

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