Freedom of Information

Reporters Committee argues for release of federal mugshots under FOIA

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | January 23, 2015
Commentary
January 23, 2015

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, along with 36 news organizations, filed an amicus brief last week with the U.S. Court of Appeals (6th Cir.) arguing that mugshots taken by the U.S. Marshals Service must be released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.

The brief argues that not only is there no privacy right implicated by releasing photos of persons who have been arrested, indicted, and appeared in open court, but that there is a powerful interest in ensuring the criminal justice system remains open to the public.

Detroit Free Press v. U.S. Department of Justice

January 16, 2015

The Detroit Free Press sued the DOJ for the release of mugshots taken by the U.S. Marshals Service under the Freedom of Information Act. The trial court held for DFP, and the government appealed to the 6th Circuit. Our brief argues that neither constitutional nor common law recognizes a privacy interest in photographs of persons who have been arrested and indicted, and appeared in open court, specifically noting that mugshots are open or presumably open to the public under the laws of at least 40 states. The brief also argues that even if there is a privacy interest in mugshots, it is outweighed by the public interest in their disclosure.

Reporters Committee argues for broad definition of 'news media' in FOIA fees case

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | News | January 14, 2015
News
January 14, 2015

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments Tuesday in Cause of Action v. FTC, a case that challenges whether the Federal Trade Commission properly denied fee waiver requests made by the non-profit group Cause of Action. The group asserted it was entitled to a fee waiver both because its requests were in the public interest and they are a representative of the news media. Katie Townsend, Litigation Director at the Reporters Committee, argued before the court as amicus curiae in support of the Cause of Action, focusing on the changing nature of disseminating information to the public in the digital age.

FOIA reform bill dies after House fails to schedule vote

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | December 12, 2014
Commentary
December 12, 2014

A bipartisan FOIA reform bill failed to be put to a vote in the House on Thursday after it was unanimously approved by the Senate. The inaction spelled death for the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, as House members are scheduled to leave town today and have not scheduled a vote on the measure.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the incident is that the House unanimously passed an even broader FOIA reform bill in February, leaving open government advocates wondering about the reasons for the House’s inaction.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who co-sponsored the Senate bill along with John Cornyn, R-Texas, blamed House Speaker John Boehner, tweeting on Thursday night, “And Boehner kills #FOIA improvements.”

FOIA Improvement Act unanimously passes Senate, heads to House

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | December 9, 2014
Commentary
December 9, 2014

After a last minute hold was released, the Senate unanimously passed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 yesterday. The Act, which strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), will now head to the House for its approval.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) lifted his hold on the bill late in the day on Monday, allowing the bill to proceed. When asked about the reasons for his delay, the Senator rather mysteriously said, “it’s sort of the internal workings of the Senate.” Lifting the hold allowed Sen. Leahy to go to the floor and secure the unanimous consent of the Senate.

Reporters Committee sues University of California for access to historic government documents

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | December 9, 2014
Commentary
December 9, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has filed a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California over their refusal to grant access to important historical documents currently being held in a library at the University of California, Berkeley. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of both the Reporters Committee and Professor Stephen Bloom, a journalist, author, and professor of journalism at the University of Iowa who has written extensively about California’s history.

Important FOIA reform bill passes Senate Judiciary Committee, but is being held up by one senator

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | December 4, 2014
Commentary
December 4, 2014

Update: as of the end of the day on Dec. 4, Senator Coburn has reportedly lifted his hold on the bill, although it is now being reported that Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) is holding it up.

The Senate is poised to take action on the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, which would make great improvements to the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but the bill is inexplicably being held up by a single senator.

Agencies want to know: Are you still interested?

Federal agencies want to clear their FOIA backlogs by forcing requesters to restate their interest
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Adam Marshall

Before we begin the time-consuming review process, we want to ensure that you are still interested in continuing the processing of this request. Please indicate your continued interest in pursuing these records within 7 days from the date of this letter, or we will assume you are no longer interested in this FOIA request, and the case will be administratively closed.

-- A 2013 letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Federal agencies want to know: “Are you still interested” in open government?

FOIA Appeal Regarding D.C. Police Body Cameras

November 20, 2014

An appeal of an adverse determination under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act (“DC FOIA”), by the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”), submitted on behalf of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The Reporters Committee sought footage from police body cameras as the D.C. police began a pilot program to test such a system.

Media coalition files comments on restrictive Department of Defense FOIA regulations

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | November 6, 2014
Commentary
November 6, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by a national coalition of media organizations, has filed comments on proposed Department of Defense (DoD) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. As the comments note, the press routinely relies on FOIA to gain access to government records in order to inform the public on the workings of the government and its elected officials. Ensuring agencies implement FOIA in a manner that is faithful to the spirit of the law and President Obama’s stated commitment to transparency is imperative in order for the press to perform its important role in our democracy.