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Mar 30 21

FOIA Activity: 94 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by Harry Hammitt

We have added 94 documents from 11 FOIA cases filed between March 14, 2021 and March 20, 2021. Note that there can be delays between the date a case is filed and when it shows up on PACER. If there are filings from this period that have yet to be posted on PACER, this FOIA Project list may not be complete.

Click on a case title below to view details for that case, including links to the associated docket and complaint documents.

  1. Maritime Documentation Center Corp. v. United States Coast Guard (filed Mar 19, 2021)
    The Maritime Documentation Corp., which did vessel documentation, submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Coast Guard for records concerning the names and addresses of commercial and recreational vessel owners, which until 2017 had published the data in Merchant Vessels of the United States. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request but withheld identifying information about recreational vessels under Exemption 6 (invasion o privacy) and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records) read more…
Mar 30 21

FOIA Activity: 14 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by FOIA Project Staff

We have added 14 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between March 14, 2021 and March 20, 2021. These are associated with 13 FOIA cases pending in federal district court. Note that because there can be delays between the date a decision is made and when it shows up on PACER, this listing includes only decisions that appeared on PACER during this period.

Click on the date to view the full text of the decision. Click on a case title below to view other details for that case, including links to the docket report and complaint.

  1. CAS 3:2020cv00035Hucul v. United States Department of Health and Human Services et al

    • March 15, 2021: ORDER Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. [17] , 18 ). Signed by Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel on 3/15/21. (dlg)
  2. read more…

Mar 25 21

FOIA Activity: 190 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by Harry Hammitt

We have added 190 documents from 25 FOIA cases filed between March 7, 2021 and March 13, 2021. Note that there can be delays between the date a case is filed and when it shows up on PACER. If there are filings from this period that have yet to be posted on PACER, this FOIA Project list may not be complete.

Click on a case title below to view details for that case, including links to the associated docket and complaint documents.

  1. DEL CID v. EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR IMMIGRATION REVIEW (filed Mar 8, 2021)
    Brayan Ernesto Del Cid submitted a FOIA request to the Executive Office for Immigration Review for records concerning his immigration proceedings. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request. After hearing nothing further from the agency, Del Cid filed suit. read more…
Mar 25 21

FOIA Activity: 14 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by FOIA Project Staff

We have added 14 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between March 7, 2021 and March 13, 2021. These are associated with 12 FOIA cases pending in federal district court. Note that because there can be delays between the date a decision is made and when it shows up on PACER, this listing includes only decisions that appeared on PACER during this period.

Click on the date to view the full text of the decision. Click on a case title below to view other details for that case, including links to the docket report and complaint.

  1. CAN 3:2020cv06893Ecological Rights Foundation v. United States Environmental Protection Agency

    • March 10, 2021: ORDER by Judge Vince Chhabria granting as modified [25] Stipulated production schedule and request to vacate current deadlines. (vclc2S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/10/2021)
  2. read more…

Mar 23 21

TRAC’s FOIA Panel Attracts a Large Audience Interested in Government Transparency

by FOIA Project Staff

TRAC’s panel event “The Public Has a Right to Know” held in partnership with the Newhouse School of Public Communications on March 16, 2021, attracted more than 600 registrants and led to a rich discussion about practical ways that journalists are using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to support investigative journalism. The event was held during Sunshine Week, an annual initiative to promote open government. Newhouse Dean Mark Lodato kicked off the event, Ellen Mbuqe chaired the event, and Austin Kocher, one of TRAC’s faculty members, moderated the discussion. The panelists for the event included three of the top media FOIA experts: Kimbriell Kelly, Jason Leopold, and David McCraw.

The fast-moving discussion included stories about why the panelists started using FOIA in their journalism, practical aspects of making FOIA requests a part of journalists’ toolbox, and the value of building strategic relationships with government FOIA officers.

Kelly described how she got started in FOIA at the local level by trying to find information about chlorine levels in local pools and feeling shut out. But she persevered and encouraged others to stay determined. “It’s my FOIA failures that have led to my FOIA successes. It’s like sharpening a tool,” Kelly said. She encouraged journalists to exercise their FOIA skills regularly like training for a marathon and to map out the records custodians on their regular news beat.

McCraw illustrated the power of FOIA through his role in helping the New York Times obtain access to COVID-19 data from the Center for Disease Control. Through this FOIA success, the New York Times was able to show that the pandemic was having a disproportionate impact on communities of color. He encouraged the audience to become experts on the records they want: “Rather than put in a general request, learn specifics about the information they have. Go outside the box, be creative.”

Leopold Leopold encouraged journalists to view FOIA requests like any other investigative story and to treat records custodians as sources. “FOIA is painstaking work, but it pays to invest the time to do it well,” he said. Leopold, whose recent work includes requesting documents related to the insurrection at the Capitol Building on January 6, emphasized the challenges of working with the government to get records and described FOIA as “a never-ending battle,” but followed up with “to be honest, I truly enjoy the battle.”

The panel discussion about FOIA emerged from TRAC’s research through the FOIA Project on the use of FOIA litigation by the news media over the past 20 years. The report titled “When FOIA Goes to Court: 20 Years of Freedom of Information Act Litigation by News Organizations and Reporters” found that the news media have become powerful players in the world of government transparency and accountability.

A video recording of the event can be found here.

About the Panelists

Kimbriell Kelly is Washington Bureau chief at the Los Angeles Times. She was previously a reporter in the investigative unit at The Washington Post and was part of the team that won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for documenting the number of fatal police-involved shootings. Her 2016 series on housing disparities in Prince George’s County won a Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists. Before she joined The Post, her reporting on mortgage lending sparked a lawsuit that resulted in an $8.7 billion settlement with Countrywide Financial and led to a $335 million discriminatory housing settlement between Countrywide and the U.S. Justice Department, the nation’s largest fair-lending settlement.

Jason Leopold is an Emmy Award-nominated investigative reporter on the BuzzFeed News investigations team and a member of the reporting team that was named a 2018 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. Leopold was one of the lead reporters on BuzzFeed News’ groundbreaking FinCEN Files investigation. His FOIA work has been profiled by dozens of radio, television, and print outlets, including a 2015 front-page story in The New York Times. Politico referred to Leopold as “perhaps the most prolific Freedom of Information requester.” In 2016, he was awarded the FOI award from Investigative Reporters & Editors and was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame by the Newseum Institute.

David McCraw is senior vice president and deputy general counsel for The New York Times. He is the author of “Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts” (St. Martin’s 2019), a first-person account of the legal battles that helped shape The Times’s coverage of Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, national security and the rise of political partisanship in America. In addition to advising the newsroom on libel and other legal issues, McCraw is one of the nation’s most prolific litigators of Freedom of Information cases and oversees international security for Times journalists working in high-risk areas.

Mar 15 21

CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE et al and 16 other new FOIA lawsuits

by Harry Hammitt

We have added 95 documents from 17 FOIA cases filed between February 28, 2021 and March 6, 2021. Note that there can be delays between the date a case is filed and when it shows up on PACER. If there are filings from this period that have yet to be posted on PACER, this FOIA Project list may not be complete.

Click on a case title below to view details for that case, including links to the associated docket and complaint documents.

  1. CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE et al (filed Mar 4, 2021)
    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington submitted FOIA requests to the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Department of the Interior for records concerning securing the U.S. Capitol Building during the January 6 congressional session to count the electoral votes read more…
Mar 15 21

FOIA Activity: 13 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by FOIA Project Staff

We have added 13 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between February 28, 2021 and March 6, 2021. These are associated with 13 FOIA cases pending in federal district court. Note that because there can be delays between the date a decision is made and when it shows up on PACER, this listing includes only decisions that appeared on PACER during this period.

Click on the date to view the full text of the decision. Click on a case title below to view other details for that case, including links to the docket report and complaint.

  1. CO 1:2018cv03065Rocky Mountain Wild, Inc. v. United States Forest Service et al

    • March 4, 2021: ORDER granting [49] Motion for Summary Judgment; denying [53] Motion for Summary Judgment by Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty on 4 March 2021.(cmadr, )
  2. read more…

Mar 8 21

FOIA Activity: 46 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by Harry Hammitt

We have added 46 documents from 8 FOIA cases filed between February 21, 2021 and February 27, 2021. Note that there can be delays between the date a case is filed and when it shows up on PACER. If there are filings from this period that have yet to be posted on PACER, this FOIA Project list may not be complete.

Click on a case title below to view details for that case, including links to the associated docket and complaint documents.

  1. Wu et al v. U.S. Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services et al (filed Feb 23, 2021)
    Minjiong Wu and Jin Ying submitted FOIA requests to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for records concerning Wu and Ying. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request but after hearing nothing further from the agency they filed suit. read more…
Mar 8 21

FOIA Activity: 17 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by FOIA Project Staff

We have added 17 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between February 21, 2021 and February 27, 2021. These are associated with 15 FOIA cases pending in federal district court. Note that because there can be delays between the date a decision is made and when it shows up on PACER, this listing includes only decisions that appeared on PACER during this period.

Click on the date to view the full text of the decision. Click on a case title below to view other details for that case, including links to the docket report and complaint.

  1. CAN 3:2020cv06893Ecological Rights Foundation v. United States Environmental Protection Agency

    • February 24, 2021: ORDER RE UPCOMING CMC. Signed by Judge Vince Chhabria on 2/24/2021. (vclc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/24/2021)
  2. read more…

Mar 2 21

FOIA Activity: 25 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by Harry Hammitt

We have added 21 documents from 3 FOIA cases filed between February 14, 2021 and February 20, 2021. Note that there can be delays between the date a case is filed and when it shows up on PACER. If there are filings from this period that have yet to be posted on PACER, this FOIA Project list may not be complete.

Click on a case title below to view details for that case, including links to the associated docket and complaint documents.

  1. CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (filed Feb 18, 2021)
    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Defense for records concerning Rivada Networks and DOD’s current spectrum allocation and the potential sharing of DOD’s spectrum allocation with private industry. CREW also requested a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request read more…
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