Wired reporter Kevin Poulson currently has a lawsuit pending against the Secret Service for the release of records pertaining to the late activist Aaron Swartz. Last week, Poulson reported that MIT had moved to intervene as a third party defendant in the case. Basically, MIT wants to see the documents it provided to the government before they are released.
There was a hearing on MIT's motion to intervene today - as well as that of another party seeking the same thing, JSTOR. As reported by the Blog of the Legal Times, the judge in the case, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly didn't rule on the intervention. Instead she instructed the parties seeking to respond to address issues raised by the Plaintiff. Further, she told the government to process the records quickly.
Intervention by third parties in a FOIA suit is rare -- but it does occur. I represented an intervening party about ten years ago in a suit brought against the FDA for records of pharmaceutical companies. The FDA regulations required the submitters of the records to intervene or the FDA would not defend its withholdings of those companies records under Exemption 4. The intervention sought here is a bit different as the underlying records are not records received in a licensing or regulatory manner from a company. Instead the records on Swartz appear to be received from the government pursuant to a law enforcement investigation, in which case a number of FOIA exemptions may be applied by the agency regardless of whether the parties are granted exemption.
The Center for Investigative Reporting ("CIR")is using Kickstarter to raise funds for its electronic FOIA tracking system for requesters, dubbed "the FOIA Machine." CIR is quickly raising enough funds to meet its goal which will then be matched by a fund out of the University of Missouri.
In the past month, the Department of Justice has released two additional sections of its FOIA Guide. The new sections are a discussion of the President's FOIA Memorandum and the AG's FOIA Guidelines and the Procedural Requirements section. As of today, only two exemption sections (2 and 7E) have been released. The sections that have been released can be found here.
The Guide is now internet only and is being released section by section rather than all at once. The last time the Guide was done in full was 2009.
The Blog of the Legal Times reports on the changeover at the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia where Judge Richard Roberts takes over as chief judge from Judge Royce Lamberth. The DC federal court has the largest caseload of FOIA cases, some of which move incredibly slow - a fact that Judge Lamberth was well aware of. In recent years, he had assigned himself some of the older cases and worked on moving them to final resolution.
Judge Lamberth has also been a keynote speaker for the FOIA community, most recently in May at the American Society of Access Professional's National Training Conference in Arlington. Hopefully Judge Roberts will continue Judge Lamberth's interest in moving FOIA cases through the system in a fair and efficient manner. This blog also wishes Judge Lamberth good luck as he enters senior status.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has introduced a bill that among other things makes the Smithsonian Institution subject to the FOIA. Making the systems of musuems subject to the FOIA has been the target of many bills for the last decade, none of which have been implemented.