It is the government’s responsibility to operate openly and share public records when requested. If the government fails to provide this information, then the requester has the right to sue for information. If an organization or individual must head to federal court to obtain information, it is crucial to have a seasoned FOIA attorney such as Attorney Kerrie Campbell to help you with your claim.
The FOIA Process
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires either full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information that is controlled by the United States government. The law allows any individual, organization, business, or attorney to request any agency records that were either created or obtained by that agency or is under the agency’s control at the time of the request. It can be in any format, including photographs, digital data, emails, video, and handwritten notes.
The process begins with the requester to submit a written request to a federal agency. The requester does not have to specify by law the reason he/she is seeking the information; however, the application should include the following information:
- The letter should state that the request is being made under the Freedom of Information Act.
- The request should identify what records are being sought out. It should be as specific as possible.
- The requester’s name and address should be included.
The agency has 20 business days to issue a determination of whether the information can be released. If the agency fails to respond within that timeframe or does not supply the documents, the requester can submit an administrative appeal. The appeal should provide all the facts which you believe are relevant to the request. The agency will give the request a deadline to appeal; if the requester fails to make the deadline, then a new FOIA request must be filed.
If the agency rejects your appeal or fails to respond to the appeal within 20 days, the requester will then have the right to sue in federal court.
Exceptions to FOIA
There are certain exemptions where a requested document cannot be released:
- The information has been classified in the interest of national security.
- The records relate only to internal personnel rules and practices of the agency.
- The information is exempted from release by statute.
- The information contains trade secrets and commercial or financial information that could harm a business.
- The information contains opinions, conclusions, and recommendations within inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters.
- The records are an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of the individuals involved.
- The records could interfere with a criminal investigation, including law enforcement proceedings, deprive a person of his/her right to a fair trial, disclose the identity or identities of confidential sources, disclose law enforcement procedures, or endanger the life or physical safety of an individual.
- The information contains or is related to examination, operating, o condition reports for an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions.
- The records contain geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.
When You Need an FOIA Attorney
FOIA Attorney Kerrie Campbell has been dealing with FOIA requests, appeals, and litigation for 30 years. A Washington, DC career professional, Attorney Campbell has decades of knowledge and experience with various federal agencies’ practices and procedures that set her apart. With her award-winning work as a First Amendment litigator, she is an advocate for truth and equality.
If you need to request information under the FOIA, need to make an administrative appeal, or are planning to sue an agency, contact KCampbell-Law PLLC for more information.