To avoid honoring FOIA requests, some governments are suing requesters


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/09/19/to-avoid-honoring-foia-request.html


#2

‘File a request at your peril,’”

That about sums it up.


#3

Who says that it was merely a request? People need to make clear that government without transparency is not legitimate government, and they should be dealt with as such. Put it all online already.


#4

There are many things wrong with Texas, but its Public Information Act isn’t one of them. Except for a few narrow exceptions, any governmental body in the state that receives a request for information must ask the Attorney General for a ruling on whether the information may/must be withheld. A specialized division in the AGs office then reviews the request, the arguments the governmental body makes to withhold the info (the law has specific exceptions to disclosure), and the information requested, then issues a ruling. If the governmental body wants to withhold the information the AG ordered released, the governmental body must sue the Attorney General not the requestor. The AG foots the bill, unless they win, at which point the the governmental body foots the bill. The requestor doesn’t have to pay, though they get a copy of all the court filings and are informed of all the court dates.

Its not a perfect system. The exceptions to disclosure can be pretty damned broad and often, when a governmental body sues the AG, the suit ends up dismissed because the requestor withdraws the request. Lawsuits take time, and some requestors just decide the info isn’t worth it, or they needed it for some time sensitive issue. There are a few ways to game the system to delay as well.

But it works better than the system in a lot of other states, and better than FOIA. In Texas, its the AG who is deciding what can be kept secret, not the government that owns the info. And a governmental body can’t sue the requestor in an attempt to get them to drop it. Which is total bullshit.


#5

Noxious to open government? Why yes, I think that’s the whole point.


#6

In Alberta, BC and some other provinces there is an independent “quasi-judicial” commission we can appeal to. I think governments can appeal the Commissioner’s decisions to the courts under some circumstances, but that is between the government and the Comissioner. Similar to Texas but the Comission is more independent, although they tend to have inadequate staff so appeals take a long time.


#7

Wouldn’t a gov agency run the risk of the opposite of what’s intended? In other words, the judge demands that the plaintiff produce the records, or part thereof, and thus they become public that way?


#8

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