Skip to content
Apr 17 20

March 2020 FOIA Litigation with Five-Year Monthly Trends

by FOIA Project Staff

During the month of March 2020 federal district courts saw a total of 57 new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed under 5 U.S.C. 552. To place this number in perspective, 57 new filings compares with a monthly average of 71 filings during the last 12 months. This month’s total brought overall FOIA filings on an annual basis for these last 12 months to 853.

The figure below provides a more detailed view of monthly trends during the past five years. The height of each bar reflects the number of filings in that month. To see the actual filing count mouse over any bar. The superimposed line over the bars is the moving 12-month average. It is computed by adding up the 12 months ending at a given month, and then dividing that total by 12 to obtain the monthly average over this period. Mousing over any bar also shows the calculated result for this moving average for that given month.
read more…

Apr 16 20

Department of Justice Finds No Data for Its Claims of FOIA Requesters Rushing into Court

by FOIA Project Staff

FOIA previously reported that recently a Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesperson inaccurately claimed that FOIA applicants are now quicker to litigate, then blamed overly-litigious requesters for straining the workloads of FOIA professionals and bogging down ordinary citizens’ FOIA requests. These claims directly contradicted the FOIA Project’s findings that litigants were, in fact, waiting longer to litigate. TRAC submitted a FOIA request on March 16 asking for documentation substantiating the DOJ’s claims. We requested any records in the Department’s possession that provided support for this statement, as well as any concrete statistics on the number of days between requests, responses (where any had occurred), and when suits were filed that would document the actual lawsuit filing behavior of requesters.  

In a letter dated April 13, the agency replied that it had conducted a search and could find no data or other statistics concerning whether or not FOIA requesters were rushing into court.   

The letter went on to assert that to the extent our request was for any agency records that would support the spokesperson’s statement, our request did not require a response because the records weren’t “reasonably described.” The letter did say it would search for “specific records utilized in preparing” the actual statement but that it needed more time to “search in and/or [for] consultation with another Office.”

The March 12, 2020, Sunshine Week event was intended to celebrate the Freedom of Information Act.  Instead, the spokesperson for the Department of Justice used the event to use unsubstantiated claims to justify the disparagement of FOIA requesters. The spokesperson, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Claire Murray, claimed that FOIA requesters were bringing lawsuits “nearly immediate[ly].”

This claim contradicts TRAC’s study that found that not only were requesters not jumping into court immediately, requesters were actually waiting on average six months—a full month longer than they had five years ago—before filing a FOIA lawsuit. Equally concerning is how the unsubstantiated and counterfactual claim was used to sow unnecessary division between, on the one hand, citizens who seek remedy in court when the government fails to comply with the law, and, on the other, government staff and “ordinary citizens.”

Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Claire Murray oversees the Office of Information Policy. Because of the important role that the OIP plays, it is incumbent on her to speak truthfully about FOIA practices. When we celebrate Sunshine Week, one would hope public statements about FOIA practices are amply supported by the evidence, particularly statements that cast aspersions upon groups of FOIA requesters and sow unnecessary division between members of the public and between the public and government professionals.

The FOIA Project exists to provide detailed, fact-based insight about the government’s handling of FOIA requests and to make this data available to the public and to government agencies alike. The value of the FOIA Project’s research is illustrated by our ability to publish timely research, which can be used to identify inaccuracies and clarify misperceptions such as those above.

Apr 16 20

FOIA Activity: 133 new FOIA court documents, plus case descriptions

by Harry Hammitt

We have added 130 documents from 12 FOIA cases filed between April 5, 2020 and April 11, 2020. 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. MURTAGH v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (filed Apr 6, 2020)
    James Murtaugh submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Health and Human Service’s Indian Health Service field office in Aberdeen, South Dakota, for records about his time working at the Fort Yates Indian Hospital. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request and the Aberdeen field office responded only with records originally supplied by Murtaugh read more…
Apr 16 20

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 April 5, 2020 and April 11, 2020. These are associated with 17 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 5:2018cv04009Mohammad v. Federal Bureau of Investigation

    • April 9, 2020: ORDER GRANTING [26] STIPULATION to Extend FOIA Production Completion Date to 7/31/2020. Further Case Management Conference set for 5/20/2020, is continued to 8/19/2020, at 10:00 AM. Joint Case Management Statement due by 8/12/2020. Signed by Judge Nathanael Cousins on 4/9/2020. (lmh, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/9/2020)
  2. read more…

Apr 9 20

Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention et al

by Harry Hammitt

We have added 13 documents from 4 FOIA cases filed between March 29, 2020 and April 4, 2020. 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. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention et al (filed Apr 2, 2020)
    The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University submitted a FOIA request to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for records concerning the agency’s policy on when CDC employees may communicate directly with the press and the public. The Knight First Amendment Institute also requested expedited processing and a fee waiver read more…
Apr 9 20

FOIA Activity: 18 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by FOIA Project Staff

We have added 18 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between March 29, 2020 and April 4, 2020. These are associated with 17 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. DC 1:2002cv00603WEBSTER et al v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE et al

    • March 31, 2020: MEMORANDUM OPINION granting [234] Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. See document for details. Signed by Judge Rudolph Contreras on 3/31/2020. (lcrc1)
  2. read more…

Apr 2 20

HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES v. AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE and 11 other new FOIA lawsuits

by Harry Hammitt

We have added 46 documents from 8 FOIA cases filed between March 22, 2020 and March 28, 2020. 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. HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES v. AGRICULTURAL MARKETING SERVICE (filed Mar 27, 2020)
    The Humane Society of the United States submitted a FOIA request to the Agricultural Marketing Service for records concerning revenues received by the National Pork Producers Council for use of the slogan promoting eating pork. The Humane Society also requested a fee waiver. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request read more…
Apr 2 20

FOIA Activity: 19 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by FOIA Project Staff

We have added 19 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between March 22, 2020 and March 28, 2020. These are associated with 19 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. AZ 2:2017cv01083American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona v. United States Department of Homeland Security et al

    • March 27, 2020: ORDER granting Plaintiff's Motion for Award of Attorneys' Fees Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(E) (Doc. [71] ) and awarding Plaintiff attorneys' fees in the amount of $76,928.80 and costs in the amount of $400.00. Signed by Judge Diane J Humetewa on 3/27/2020. (See Order for details.) (LFIG)
  2. read more…

Mar 26 20

PUBLIC ADVOCATE OF THE UNITED STATES v. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION and 6 other new FOIA lawsuits

by Harry Hammitt

We have added 44 documents from 5 FOIA cases filed between March 15, 2020 and March 21, 2020. 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. PUBLIC ADVOCATE OF THE UNITED STATES v. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (filed Mar 20, 2020)
    Public Advocates of the United States submitted a FOIA request to the Centers for Disease Control for records concerning the production of the 2014 video series Start Talking. Stop HIV. PAUS also requested expedited processing and a fee waiver. CDC acknowledged receipt of the request. CDC subsequently denied PAUS’s requests for expedited processing and a fee waiver read more…
Mar 26 20

FOIA Activity: 23 New Procedural or Substantive Decisions

by FOIA Project Staff

We have added 23 decisions of a procedural or substantive nature filed between March 15, 2020 and March 21, 2020. These are associated with 21 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. CAE 2:2019cv00415KXTV, LLC v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

    • March 18, 2020: STIPULATION and ORDER signed by District Judge John A. Mendez on 3/18/2020 EXTENDING Time to 4/30/2020, for Plaintiff to file a motion for attorney fees. (York, M)
  2. read more…

Skip to toolbar