Articles in Category: FOIA

FOIA

FOIA - Freedom of Information Act


FILING A JUDICIAL APPEAL

FILING A JUDICIAL APPEAL

FILING A JUDICIAL APPEAL

When an administrative appeal is denied, a requester has the right to appeal the denial in court. A FOIA appeal lawsuit can be filed in the U.S. District Court in the district where the requester lives. The requester can also file suit in the district where the documents are located or in the District of Columbia. When a requester goes to court, the burden of justifying the withholding of documents is on the government. This is a distinct advantage for the requester.

ADMINISTRATIVE APPEAL PROCEDURES

ADMINISTRATIVE APPEAL PROCEDURES

ADMINISTRATIVE APPEAL PROCEDURES

Whenever a FOIA request is denied, the agency must inform the requester of the reasons for the denial and the requester's right to appeal the denial to the head of the agency. A requester may appeal the denial of a request for a document or for a fee waiver. A requester may contest the type or amount of fees that were charged. A requester may appeal any other type of adverse determination, including a rejection of a request for failure to describe adequately the documents being requested or a response indicating that no requested records were located. A requester can also appeal because the agency failed to conduct an adequate search for the documents that were requested.

A person whose request was granted in part and denied in part may appeal the part that was denied. If an agency has agreed to disclose some but not all requested documents, the filing of an appeal does not affect the release of the documents that are disclosable. There is no risk to the requester in filing an appeal.

FOIA EXCLUSIONS

FOIA EXCLUSIONS

The 1986 amendments to the FOIA gave limited authority to agencies to respond to a request without confirming the existence of the requested records. Ordinarily, any proper request must receive an answer stating whether there is any responsive information, even if the requested information is exempt from disclosure.

In some narrow circumstances, acknowledgement of the existence of a record can produce consequences similar to those resulting from disclosure of the record itself. In order to avoid this type of problem, the 1986 amendments established three "record exclusions."

The exclusions allow an agency to treat certain exempt records as if the records were not subject to the FOIA. An agency is not required to confirm the existence of three specific categories of records. If these records are requested, the agency may respond that there are no disclosable records responsive to the request. However, these exclusions do not broaden the authority of any agency to withhold documents from the public. The exclusions are only applicable to information that is otherwise exempt from disclosure.

REQUIREMENTS FOR AGENCY RESPONSES

REQUIREMENTS FOR AGENCY RESPONSES

Until the response requirements of the 1996 amendments to the FOIA become fully effective in early October 1997, each agency is currently required to determine within 10 days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) after the receipt of a request whether to comply with the request.\23\ The actual disclosure of documents is required to follow promptly thereafter. If a request is denied in whole or in part, the agency must tell the requester the reasons for the denial. The agency must also tell the requester that there is a right to appeal any adverse determination to the head of the agency or his or her designee.

The FOIA permits an agency to extend the time limits up to 10 days in unusual circumstances. These circumstances include the need to collect records from remote locations, review large numbers of records, and consult with other agencies. The agency is supposed to notify the requester whenever an extension is invoked.24

FEES AND FEE WAIVERS

FEES AND FEE WAIVERS

FOIA requesters may have to pay fees covering some or all of the costs of processing their requests. As amended in 1986, the law establishes three types of fees that may be charged. The 1986 law makes the process of determining the applicable fees more complicated. However, the 1986 rules reduce or eliminate entirely the cost for small, noncommercial requests.

First, fees can be imposed to recover the cost of copying documents. All agencies have a fixed price for making copies using copying machines. A requester is usually charged the actual cost of copying computer tapes, photographs, and other nonstandard documents.

WHAT RECORDS CAN BE REQUESTED UNDER THE FOIA?

WHAT RECORDS CAN BE REQUESTED UNDER THE FOIA?

The FOIA requires agencies to publish in the Federal Register--thereby, under the Government Printing Office Electronic Information Access Enhancement Act of 1993,\16\ making such information available online--(1) descriptions of agency organization and office addresses; (2) statements of the general course and method of agency operation; (3) rules of procedure and descriptions of forms; and (4) substantive rules of general applicability and general policy statements. The act also requires agencies to make available for public inspection and copying: (1) final opinions made in the adjudication of cases; (2) statements of policy and interpretations adopted by an agency, but not published in the Federal Register; (3) administrative staff manuals that affect the public; (4) copies of records released in response to FOIA requests that an agency determines have been or will likely be the subject of additional requests; and (5) a general index of released records determined to have been or likely to be the subject of additional requests.\17\ The 1996 FOIA amendments require that, within 1 year after their enactment, these materials which an agency must make available for inspection and copying without the formality of a FOIA request and which are created on or after November 1, 1996, must be made available by computer telecommunications and in hard copy.\18\

Sample Request and Appeal Letters

Freedom of Information Act Appeal Letter

B. Freedom of Information Act Appeal Letter

Agency Head [or Freedom of Information Act Officer]
Name of Agency
Address of Agency
City, State, Zip Code

Re: Freedom of Information Act Appeal

Dear :

This is an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act.

On (date), I requested documents under the Freedom of Information Act. My request was assigned the following identification number: ________. On (date), I received a response to my request in a letter signed by (name of official). I appeal the denial of my request.

GUIDE ON USING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT AND THE PRIVACY ACT OF 1974 TO REQUEST GOVERNMENT RECORDS

Sample Request and Appeal Letters

A. Freedom of Information Act Request Letter

Agency Head [or Freedom of Information Act Officer]
Name of Agency
Address of Agency
City, State, Zip Code

Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

Dear :

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I request that a copy of the following documents [or documents containing the following information] be provided to me: [identify the documents or information as specifically as possible].

Freedom of Information (FOIA) Tool Box

Law - 5 U.S.C. § 552 .. As Amended (as of Dec. 31, 2000)

Freedom of Information (FOIA) Tool Box

Law - 5 U.S.C. § 552 .. As Amended (as of Dec. 31, 2000)

§ 552. Public information; agency rules, opinions, orders, records, and proceedings

(a) Each agency shall make available to the public information as follows:

(1) Each agency shall separately state and currently publish in the Federal Register for the guidance of the public--


4x4Wire.com

OutdoorWire, 4x4Wire, JeepWire, TrailTalk, MUIRNet-News, and 4x4Voice are all trademarks and publications of OutdoorWire, Inc. and MUIRNet Consulting. Copyright (c) 1999-2019 OutdoorWire, Inc and MUIRNet Consulting - All Rights Reserved, no part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without express written permission. You may link freely to this site, but no further use is allowed without the express written permission of the owner of this material. All corporate trademarks are the property of their respective owners.