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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February 25, 2015 1:00 AM

National Immigration Law Center and other legal aid and public interest groups filed a Freedom of Information Act suit Friday seeking access to records relating to worksite raids led by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement to uncover undocumented workers.

The center, along with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, The Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center, Dolores Street Community Services and National Employment Law Project, allege that ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have failed to adequately comply with an April 12, 2012, written request seeking information regarding the ICE’s administration of its worksite enforcement strategy.

“Having exhausted all of their administrative remedies, plaintiffs are filing the present lawsuit to compel defendants’ compliance with FOIA and the production of the requested records in their entirety,” the lawsuit states. Continue>>>

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February 20, 2015 1:23 PM

A Saginaw County judge has approved a motion from the Michigan Attorney General's Office allowing the state agency to get involved in a case about the release of the names of approximately 100 Oakley Police Department reserve police officers.


Assistant Attorney General speaks in support of motion in Oakley reservist FOIA lawsuit
"Under the general village law act, there's no contemplation of phantom philanthropists who declare themselves as justified as serving as members of a general law village's police force," Assistant Attorney General John Szczubelek said during a Feb. 17 hearing in Saginaw County Circuit Court.
The Attorney General's Office, representing the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, submitted the motion last week that states reservists do not meet standards published by MCOLES to be considered police officers under the village law act.

That means the reservists' names cannot be withheld under the law enforcement exemption of the Freedom of Information Act, Assistant Attorney General John F. Szczubelek said before Saginaw County Circuit Court Judge Robert Kaczmarek on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Continue>>>
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February 19, 2015 1:13 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and a coalition of labor unions plan to drop a lawsuit over the temporary closure of the state Capitol in December 2012 while the Legislature took initial votes on Michigan’s right-to-work law.

The plaintiffs have decided not to appeal Court of Claims Judge Deborah Servitto’s recent ruling that there was nothing illegal about the Michigan State Police’s decision to lock the doors to the Capitol during debate on the controversial bills, said Dan Korobkin, deputy legal director for the ACLU of Michigan.

Servitto also ruled that the Legislature did not violate the Open Meetings Act when 36 Republican legislative aides were directed to sit in the 175-seat House gallery during debate on the bills, taking away potential seats from members of the public. Continue>>>
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ACLU, FOIA lawsuit, Michigan
February 17, 2015 2:11 AM

Legislators like to say they can’t legislate morality, although they keep trying, because they can.

The same can be said for open government. No matter how many laws are passed or how many court orders are issued, people in power will find shady spots in the “Sunshine” law, because they can.

There’s a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court, filed by a group of news organizations and open-government advocates, accusing Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet of breaking the “Government in the Sunshine” law in the Gerald Bailey firing. Basically, it says they used Cabinet aides as “conduits” to get the foul deed done, without public discussion of ousting the highly respected Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner. Continue>>>
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February 16, 2015 11:03 AM

Controversial professor Steven Salaita will be able to pursue his Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the University of Illinois for refusing to release documents about his case.

Champaign County Judge Chase Leonhard on Friday rejected the university's motion to dismiss the case, but he also agreed to strike portions of the complaint outlining the circumstances and fallout from the UI's decision to withdraw its job offer to Salaita.

"This is not a political arena" but a FOIA case, Leonhard said in issuing his order. "We're not here today on the merits of any claim." Continue>>>
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February 13, 2015 1:14 PM

Four senators have filed papers with a federal appeals court urging judges to force the government to divulge more about the rules it follows when it makes U.S. citizens the target of anti-terror drone strikes.

The filing Wednesday with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan supported arguments made in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The FOIA lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times. It has already forced the release of a heavily redacted 41-page memo. But other memos are sought. Continue>>>
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February 12, 2015 2:39 PM

Three Southern California civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit Tuesday against two federal agencies, the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, claiming they are wrongly withholding information that should be publicly available.

They are requesting information about a Border Patrol practice known as roving patrols, in which agents conduct searches of people and vehicles away from the border and away from checkpoints in the country’s interior.

The suing organizations are the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and the University of California Irvine School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic. Continue>>>
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February 12, 2015 2:30 PM

A bipartisan group of senators filed a brief late last night in federal appeals court in support of the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times’ lawsuits seeking Justice Department legal memos on U.S. targeted killing operations.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) wrote in their friend-of-the-court brief that they supported the Freedom of Information Act lawsuits because they believe the government should not be creating a body of “secret law” concerning the extrajudicial killing of American citizens.

The senators wrote that they are “deeply concerned that the Executive Branch’s excessive secrecy is frustrating the purposes of FOIA and impeding a healthy debate on an issue of paramount importance: when the Government may use drone strikes to kill one of its own citizens without charge or trial.” Continue>>>
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February 10, 2015 2:10 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union early Monday withdrew an emergency motion filed late last month in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that blocked the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from collecting all copies of the committee’s full, unredacted report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program.”

The move came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) responded to the motion on Friday night, promising that the Obama administration would not destroy or return to Senator Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, copies of the report without permission from the judge in the ACLU’s lawsuit.


“The government can now assure the court that it will preserve the status quo either until the issue of whether the Full Report is a congressional document or an agency record is resolved, or until it obtains leave of court to alter the status quo,” the Friday brief reads. Continue>>>
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February 10, 2015 1:43 PM

Five years ago, a taxpayer watchdog invoked the state Freedom of Information Law and started a court battle for access to the names of retired public employees who are collecting pensions, along with the amounts of their payments.

The litigation drags on, despite a ruling by New York’s highest court that the information is public. As it clearly is under the law. As it must be in order for the public to scrutinize New York’s vast, increasingly expensive public retirement systems.

In the latest round, the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association have gotten a hearing before Brooklyn Acting Supreme Court Justice Peter Sweeney. Continue>>>
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February 9, 2015 12:22 PM

The abrupt resignation of the chief of Florida's crime-fighting agency prompted media and open government advocates to file a lawsuit accusing Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet of violating state Sunshine Laws.

The Florida Society of News Editors, the Associated Press, Citizens for Sunshine and a St. Petersburg lawyer teamed up Wednesday to ask a Leon County court to rule that Scott's ouster of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey subverted open meeting laws.

"The Governor violated the Sunshine Law by using conduits to engage in polling, discussions, communications and other exchanges with other members of the Cabinet regarding his unilateral decision to force the resignation of the FDLE Commissioner and appoint a replacement without any notice to the public, without any opportunity for the public to attend, and without any minutes being taken," the lawsuit said. Continue>>>
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February 5, 2015 1:38 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Connecticut, and the Service Women’s Action Network filed a lawsuit today against the Department of Defense for failing to release records under the Freedom of Information Act that would show how three military academies maintain policies that result in an underrepresentation of women in the student population.

The lawsuit aims to capture information about the admissions and recruitment policies at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), and the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, with the ultimate goal of ending the gender disparities and discrimination that women who aspire to become military officers face. The Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Connecticut represent the plaintiffs.

DOD has a long history of denying women opportunities to serve equally and in leadership roles. Cadets and midshipmen attend the military service academies tuition-free, graduate with a bachelor of science degree with a commission as a second lieutenant, and must serve a minimum of five years on active duty. Yet, the percentage of women at West Point has remained between 14 percent and 17 percent for over 25 years, women are less than a quarter of the Brigade of Midshipmen at USNA, and the USAFA has limited its enrollment of women cadets to at or below 23 percent since 1976, despite commissioning its graduates into a service in which over 99 percent of career fields have been open to women for two decades. Continue>>>
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