Case Number: 1:23-cv-03741
Court: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
Client: Mark Betancourt
Complaint Filed: Dec. 15, 2023
Background: In February 2023, freelance journalist Mark Betancourt submitted two separate Freedom of Information Act requests to the Social Security Administration seeking records in connection with his ongoing reporting about the agency’s disability adjudication system.
In one request, Betancourt asked for data concerning the outcome of hearings before SSA administrative law judges who handle disability cases. In another request, he sought data regarding administrative law judges whose decisions have been the subject of what the SSA refers to as “focused reviews.”
After roughly 200 days, the SSA failed to disclose any of the requested information in response to the first request. While the SSA turned over some data in response to the second request, the agency redacted information that it claimed was protected under two separate FOIA exemptions. Betancourt filed an administrative appeal challenging the redactions but has yet to receive a response.
On behalf of Betancourt, Reporters Committee attorneys sued the SSA for access to the requested records, alleging that the agency violated FOIA by failing to comply with statutory deadlines and by unlawfully withholding agency records. Among other things, the lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to order the SSA to search for records responsive to the requests and to issue a declaration that Betancourt is entitled to access the data.