I've been looking into the FOIA crystal ball and have a few predictions about FOIA in 2017. Some may be obvious, some not so much.
1.) The new administration will not have a very strong grasp of transparency issues. They may have, in theory, pro-transparency positions. But many of those named as Secretaries of various agencies or in positions in the White House have no federal or state government experience and won't actually realize how FOIA, the Privacy Act, FACA etc... actually work. This will probably be apparent sometime later in the year when FOIA requests for these individuals records are searched for and processed.
2.) Agency FOIA operations will have tougher times during the year as agency budgets will not be increased and a potential hiring freeze will only help to increase backlogs.
3.) There will many high profile lawsuits filed by old and new media this year - many will be filed because the requests are unfilled in the statutory period.
4.) Lawsuits from non-media will also increase. Increased backlogs, poor FOIA training and other issues in agencies will likely increase the frustration with requesters and get them to pull the trigger on lawsuits. The fact that the FOIA Ombudsman (OGIS) can't force agencies to act properly doesn't help this situation.
5.) The FOIA will not be repealed!
Have a happy and healthy new year and don't forget to check the FOIA blog for additional FOIA news in 2017.