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Federal court raises attorney fees available to FOI Act requester

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Federal court raises attorney fees available to FOI Act requester

  • A federal appeals court in San Francisco Monday substantially increased attorneys fees available to Hermosa Beach resident James Lissner, whose Freedom of Information Act litigation forced the release in 2001 of information from U.S. Customs Service files on two Hermosa Beach police officers arrested and fined for smuggling steroids.

Feb. 4, 2003 — Reversing a lower court’s decision on attorneys fees available to a Freedom of Information Act requester, the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco (9th Cir.) found that lawyers for Hermosa Beach resident James Lissner are entitled to fees for preparing an initial motion, for attorneys fees and to increased attorney hours and billing rates based on evidence Lissner provided.

Lissner in March 2001 ultimately succeeded at the appeals court in opening up U.S. Customs records about two Hermosa Beach police officers fined only $500 for smuggling steroids into California from Mexico. The Customs Service had argued that it could protect the officers’ “privacy.”

Although a federal district court in Los Angeles agreed, the appeals panel in San Francisco in 2001 said that the public had a legitimate interest in knowing how the government handled its investigation of the officers.

Lissner is a retired businessman who actively tracks local government activities.

(Lissner v. U.S. Customs Service; attorney: James Chadwick, Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, San Diego) RD

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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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