Next time a federal agency doesn't respond to your FOIA request in 20 days, sue them.
In a landmark ruling, a federal appeals court ruled April 2, 2013, that agencies had to respond substantively to Freedom of Information Act requests within 20 business days — just like the law says. No longer can they wait 20 days and then send you a letter saying they got your FOIA request and might get around to fulfilling it someday.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, saying that the agencies had 20 days to say "what documents would or wouldn’t be handed over and why," according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
- "Requestors Can Immediately Sue Agencies That Fail To Provide Timely Responses, Court Finds," Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, April 4, 2013, by Lily Chappa.
- "D.C. Circuit Hands CREW a Big Win on FOIA — Why It Matters," CREW Blog, April 2, by Anne Weismann.
This is one of the stories in the April 10, 2013 issue of SEJ's biweekly WatchDog. Find the rest of the stories and past issues here.