Knight FOI Fund recipients (“Recipients”) incur no direct liability to NFOIC or its funder, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In no instance does NFOIC seek reimbursement for grants issued for costs, expenses or fees in cases where Recipient does not prevail, or ones in which Recipient does not win reimbursements through court victories or legal settlements.
However, in the aftermath of a legal victory in which costs, expenses or fees have been recovered from settlement agreements or court-ordered awards to prevailing litigants, the following policies may apply:
- Recipients are expected to reimburse the Fund for at least the full value of the grant when they are able to recover those costs as part of the resolution of the case for which grant funding was used.
- NFOIC must consider the Fund’s sustainability and the prospects of cost, expense and fee recovery for every Knight FOI Fund grant application. However, the possibility or likelihood need not be a determining factor. Support for meritorious cases may be approved, even when the chances of recovering outlays from the Fund are slim or nonexistent.
- Most Knight FOI Fund (“Fund”) grants do not cover attorney fees. In exceptional cases for which attorney fees are part of a Fund award, full reimbursement to the Fund for any attorney fees advanced are required, where permitted, once they are recovered from settlement agreements or court-ordered awards to prevailing litigants.
- Prevailing attorneys and law firms in cases for which Recipients are advanced only court costs and/or expenses, will, to the extent allowed by law, be required by Recipient to pay at least five percent (5%) of any attorney-fee recovery to help sustain the Knight FOI Fund.
- When the law firm or attorney is not the direct Recipient, NFOIC will require Fund Recipients to sign agreements with their attorneys to secure such payments. NFOIC reserves the right to require documentation of an appropriate agreement prior to issuance of the grant award.
- Where laws, rules or regulations prohibit such agreements or compulsory payments, NFOIC seeks commensurate voluntary donations.
- Recipients are required to make this expectation known to their attorneys, but have no responsibility or liability for attorneys who decline. The manner of communication is at the discretion of the grant Recipient. However, NFOIC may ask, at any time, to be informed how it was communicated.
- In such situations, the communication should include that the donation is voluntary, and that NFOIC has 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
- Some of the policies listed above may not apply for Fund grant awards approved prior to July 2, 2012 except as Recipients choose to voluntarily comply with them.
These policies are intended to help NFOIC sustain the Knight FOI Fund as a tool for civic good, and for uses in future meritorious open government cases. For clarification regarding any of these policies, please contact Todd Fettig (616.438.5116) or NFOIC Litigation Committee chair Thomas Susman. The policies regarding reimbursements, donation requests and fee sharing only apply where the Recipient has prevailed and/or where costs, expenses, or fees have been recovered. Send general inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.