I've been posting about the movement to update Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law and bring it in to, at the very least, the twentieth century. Now, a group of citizens have started a blog dedicated to focusing the discussion on Open Records reform in Pennsylvania. Check it out!
States continue to deal with what emails are public records. The Columbus Dispatch reports that a committee of Ohio Legislator's will examine the issue of whether e-mail sent via private email accounts are public records. And the Arizona Supreme Court held that not every email on a record of a public official is a public record. This issue is not going away anytime soon.
A New Jersey attorney who first made his FOIA requests to the FDA in November of 2004 has now filed suit over the delay. A Court will now oversee the FDA's response to attorney Eric Weinberg. The FDA claims they'd like to get the information out quicker but they have a huge backlog.
Yes, the FDA has a huge backlog of FOIA requests, but that is not Mr. Weinberg's problem, its the FDA and its parent agency, HHS's problem. And its Congress'es problem. The FOIA amendments working its way through Congress and heading to the White House do not address funding for FOIA staffs--thus it will have little impact on backlogs such as FDA's. As I've said before, the way to fix the FOIA backlog problem is to have Congress directly fund FOIA Operations. Until then, we'll have many more like Eric Weinberg, anxiously awaiting a reply until they are forced to file litigation.
U.S. District of Columbia District Court Judge Richard J. Leon has handed down this decision denying attorney fees to plaintiff William A. Davy Jr. Davy had brought the case against the CIA, and the D.C. Circuit found that Davy had substantially prevailed and eligible for attorney fees. The Circuit Court had remanded the case to the Judge Leon for a determination of whether Davy was entitled to attorney fees.
Judge Leon went throught the factors of entitlement for attorney fees in FOIA litigaion and found that Davy was not entitled to them because the balance of the factors weighed for the government. I won't be surprised if Davy takes this case to the D.C. Circuit Court one more time.
This article details the changes the state of North Carolina is looking at for its public records law. As some one who does request contract information from various states, I'm not sure how a law barring contract information in its entirety would be in the public interest. There are less extreme procedures that can be put in place to protect this information where it would truly harm state interests.
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has signed a bill decreasing the cost of copies state agencies can charge for copies of public records. The maximum cost for copies made pursuant to Public Records requests had been $1.25--the highest in the country. The new law decreases the maximum cost to $.25 per copy, which is more in line with other states.
The Democratic National Committee has sued the Department of Justice over a FOIA request made last month for documents pertaining to the Republican National Committee or individual state and local Republican Party contacts with the Department concerning issues in the ongoing fired U.S. Attorneys controversy.
The DNC made its request in March and has not received an answer from DOJ within the statutorily mandated response time, which made the request ripe for the DNC's filing of the complaint.
According to the Jackson Hole Tribune, the state of Wyoming has lost its battle to see the Department of the Interior's file on its decision in 2003 to reject the state's wolf management plan. Most of the withholdings were made pursuant to the deliberative process privilege of FOIA exemption 5, and upheld by District Court Judge Alan Johnson.
This case highlights the need for Congress to somehow limit the reach of the deliberative process privilege. A state should be able to know why its plan to manage its activities was rejected by the federal government. However, the federal government is able to rely on the deliberative process privilege regardless of the bigger picture such as the need for states and the federal government to attempt to work together.
One suggestion--do not allow any work product or statements made by political appointees or contractors to be protected under the deliberative process privilege.
Joe Rothstein, editor, of U.S. Politics today has published this this editorial ripping the Bush Administration for their penchant for hiding just about every request for every thing sought under FOIA and other statutes.