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

January 30, 2015 1:46 PM

A Minnesota federal judge on Tuesday tossed two farm groups’ attempts to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from releasing addresses and other information about large-scale animal farms under the Freedom of Information Act, ruling the information was already publicly available.

The American Farm Group Federation and the National Pork Producers Council sued the EPA in July 2013 after the agency released the names, addresses and GPS locations of farms that keep animals in close confinement in several states. Environmental groups, including Food & Water Watch, had requested the information, and the plaintiffs sought to prevent further disclosures.

U.S. District Judge Ann D. Montgomery found that Clean Water Act regulations for pollution discharges require farmers to disclose their location to state agencies and that the information must be made public under federal regulations. The plaintiffs argued that the EPA’s release information would be an invasion of their privacy and should have qualified for an FOIA exemption. Continue>>>

January 29, 2015 11:25 AM

Miracles do happen. Two Michigan institutions on opposites sides of the political spectrum recently found some common ground.

The conservative leaning Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed a lawsuit last week against the Michigan Liquor Control Commission over ridiculous fees the agency charged for a freedom of information request.

The liberal advocacy group Michigan Progress sent out a press release supporting the Mackinac Center. Continue>>>

January 29, 2015 11:20 AM

A Vice News reporter filed a lawsuit Sunday against the State Department for withholding records on Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, the latest of several complaints lodged against the department for stonewalling Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding the former first lady.

Jason Leopold, an investigate reporter for Vice News, alleges in his FOIA lawsuit that the State Department failed to give a final response to his records request and also denied his request for expedited processing. Leopold filed the request, seeking all records on Clinton maintained by the department, in November 2014.

Many news agencies and advocacy groups have been trying to get State Department documents about Clinton with little success, leading to accusations that the stonewall is politically motivated. Continue>>>

January 28, 2015 1:18 AM

When Oakley's attorney, Richard Hamilton, failed to forward a Freedom of Information Act request to the village's FOIA coordinator, the village violated Michigan law, a judge ruled Friday, Jan. 23.

Shiawassee County Judge says Oakley violated FOIA law when attorney ignored request
When Oakley's attorney, Richard Hamilton, failed to forward a Freedom of Information Act request to the village's FOIA coordinator, the village violated Michigan law, a judge ruled Friday, Jan. 23.
"The defendant arbitrarily and capriciously violated the act through attorney Hamilton's actions," Shiawassee County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart said.

The ruling resulted in a $500 penalty and "reasonable attorney fees" to be paid within 30 days by the village to Brandi Bitterman, who sued after the village failed to respond to her October FOIA request seeking the names of the reserve police officers on the Oakley Police Department. Continue>>>

January 26, 2015 11:40 AM

The Michigan Court of Appeals published a decision today that orders Oakley to release the names of donors to the village police fund.

The decision, signed digitally by Michael J. Riordan and Patrick M. Meter on Jan. 23, does not make a decision on whether the village should release the names of reservists serving as part of the Oakley Police Department.

The decision orders Saginaw County Circuit Court to hold hearings for more information. The case was filed on behalf of village resident Shannon Bitterman, wife of Oakley Trustee Dennis Bitterman. The Bittermans are owners of the Oakley Family Tavern and have claimed police have harassed their customers and employees. Continue>>>


January 23, 2015 12:03 PM

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy today filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in Midland County Circuit Court against the Michigan Liquor Control Commission over illegal fees the government agency attempted to charge the Mackinac Center for copying spreadsheet data onto a flash drive.

“This is information that an MLCC employee had already told us existed electronically,” said Derk Wilcox, senior attorney for the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. “It would be like trying to charge for making photocopies when the photocopies already exist.”

On Nov. 7, 2014, Fiscal Policy Director Michael LaFaive visited the MLCC offices to do research on the issue of “post and hold” rules for alcohol prices. He was told that 2.5 months’ worth of data he was seeking existed on a spreadsheet and that he could have that data if he could provide a USB flash drive. Continue>>>

December 17, 2014 5:09 PM

This week Citizens United sued the State Department in federal court over its unlawful withholding of documents relating to Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.

We are currently in pre-production for a sequel to our landmark film Hillary: The Movie. This film will take a hard look at Hillary Clinton’s career and will tell the truth about her failed record as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.

We’ve filed numerous Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests for documents relating to Hillary’s time at the State Department. These requests have gone largely unanswered. What is the State Department trying to hide? Why won’t the Obama Administration prioritize transparency when it comes to taxpayer-funded public documents? The public has a right to know – yes, even if it is about Hillary Clinton. Continue>>> 

December 16, 2014 12:37 PM

The Obama administration has urged a court to reject a request to disclose thousands of pages of documents from a Justice Department investigation into the torture of detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency, including summaries of interviews with about 100 witnesses and documents explaining why in the end no charges were filed.

The administration made the filing late Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by The New York Times, hours after the Senate Intelligence Committee made public a 524-page executive summary of its own investigation into C.I.A. torture. The committee based its report on a review of C.I.A. documents but did not conduct any interviews.

The Justice Department materials, the court filing revealed, include 10 reports and memorandums totaling 1,719 pages — more than three times the number of pages in the Senate report released Tuesday — as well as “numerous” pages of reports on interviews with current and former C.I.A. officials. Continue>>>

December 10, 2014 10:40 AM

The Port of Olympia commission voted Monday night to move forward with a final settlement agreement covering three lawsuits, two of which were filed against the port nearly eight years ago.

The lawsuits were filed by Arthur West of Olympia, an open government advocate who sued the port twice in 2007 and once in 2012, according to port data.

Commissioner Sue Gunn was absent Monday, so commissioners Bill McGregor and George Barner approved a plan to have executive director Ed Galligan “execute a final settlement agreement consistent with terms previously discussed in executive sessions.” Continue>>>


December 5, 2014 11:39 AM

A long awaited Senate report on the CIA’s former “enhanced interrogation" techniques could be out by Monday.

Vice News reported Jason Leopold, who has a longstanding Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Obama administration over the so-called “torture report,” tweeted on Wednesday that the report should be out at the beginning of next week.

“Senate report on CIA interrogation program will be released MONDAY, govt atty just told my atty in my #FOIA case for the rpt,” he tweeted. Continue>>>

December 5, 2014 11:21 AM

Once again, failure to follow the Freedom of Information Act, failure to provide responsive public records to the person requesting the records.

This is the 7th FOIA civil suit against Arcola Township.

You can read it below, but the main problem is that Arcola Township thinks they can do as they please, the law be damned. Continue>>>

December 2, 2014 1:45 PM

An advocate for the disabled has sued the Cuomo administration for detailed disclosures about crimes against disabled individuals in state care and is questioning why thousands of calls to the state's abuse hotline didn't lead to investigations.

The suit filed last week in state court cited data from the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs showing that of more than 70,000 calls in the hotline's first 11 months, only 1,402 were assigned to its investigators. Another 7,572 cases were referred back to state agencies that provide services and contract with nonprofits.

The suit by the Jonathan Carey Foundation claims the data provided under New York's Freedom of Information Law after months of delays omitted details about crimes. The filing also asks why almost 90 percent of the reports were not assigned for investigation. Continue>>>

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