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Shapiro v. U.S. Social Security Administration

Post categories

  1. Freedom of Information

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Date Filed: Dec. 15, 2022

Background: As part of a federal Freedom of information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Social Security Administration, a medical doctor challenged fees the agency charged him after it failed to timely respond to his request for records related to headache disorders.

The SSA claimed that a provision of the Social Security Act, enacted in 1981, supersedes FOIA’s fee provisions. But five years after enacting that provision, in the 1986 amendments to FOIA, Congress explicitly limited the scope of the types of other statutes that can supersede FOIA’s ordinary fee provisions.

And in 2007, Congress passed a fee provision known as the “Tardiness Prohibition,” which states that an agency should not be permitted to flout FOIA’s requirements and, at the same time, charge a requester fees.

On the specific issue of the fee dispute, the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont granted the doctor’s request for a fee refund. The SSA then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Our Position: The Second Circuit should affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Shapiro with respect to the fees for his request.

  • The SSA Statute does not supersede FOIA’s ordinary fee provisions, and the Tardiness Prohibition forecloses the SSA’s right to charge fees for a late response.

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