What does the Knight FOI Fund pay for?
The Fund is aimed at covering the costs of bringing litigation, which would include up-front costs such as court costs, filing fees, depositions and related expenses. The goal is to fuel the pursuit of important open government cases. Only in rare circumstances will grants include direct outlays for attorney fees.
What kinds of cases qualify for grants?
The Knight FOI Fund was established primarily to support meritorious legal access cases under state and local public disclosure and open meeting laws. The Fund is also available to support litigants in anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) suits, SLAPP defenses, important appellate cases and federal FOIA cases where citizen and journalist access to important public record information may be enhanced.
How are cases selected?
Unlike other NFOIC grants, there are few limitations on who can apply for a Knight FOI Fund grant. Applicants may include individuals, organizations (including NFOIC member organizations), journalists, attorneys, news organizations, or any citizen needing support for a meritorious open government case. Applications submitted either directly to NFOIC or through your state FOI group will be forwarded to the NFOIC Litigation Committee. You may wish to contact your state FOI group, as it is likely they eventually will be consulted regarding the merits of your issue.
What are the chances of a grant request being approved?
The Litigation Committee will review requests with attention paid to the following criteria:
- Is the proposed litigation meritorious and important? Does the action have potential significant precedent-setting value?
- Do existing laws favor the individual or entity that is bringing the legal action or contemplating one?
- Does the state FOI coalition recommend action? What are the potential risks involved, and are they outweighed by the arguments in favor of access?
- Does the request ask that the NFOIC join as a party? The NFOIC rarely, if ever, will join as a party, preferring to join amicus briefs instead.
- Has the requester secured counsel? And is it prepared to fund legal costs beyond the NFOIC's contribution?
- The Knight FOI Fund’s sustainability and the prospects for cost, expense and fee recovery are taken into consideration for every application, but is not necessarily a determining factor.
Will the NFOIC direct or influence the legal strategy?
Not really. How you plan to address the issues and the law might affect the chances of a grant being approved. However, once a Knight FOI Fund grant is approved, the approach and legal strategy you use are matters entirely for you and your attorney(s).
If the FOI requester wins, what happens?
The NFOIC will ask for reimbursement to the Fund of any court costs recovered by the requester. Other policies regarding cost recovery may also apply. We’d also ask that we work with you to publicize your victory!
How do I apply?
The first step is to complete the application. Applications may be submitted through your state FOI group or directly to NFOIC. If you submit your request to the state group, it will be forwarded to NFOIC. If your application is submitted directly to NFOIC, a member organization or other FOI expert in your state will still be consulted regarding your case’s merits.