from the obey-the-regulation,-doj dept
We have been crafting about journalist Jason Leopold for a lot of yrs, both concentrated on his FOIA adventures or the astounding (and essential) scoops he achieves as a result of them. If you seem back through our archives, you will see that Leopold is familiar with how to use freedom of information rules mainly improved than any one, and therefore wields them properly to support superior notify the public of just what our authorities is up to. That, of course, is the full level of flexibility of data guidelines in the initially put. Our governing administration is meant to be clear with us in excess of what they do. FOIA tends to make that possible, and it only works when it’s utilized. And Leopold uses it.
Many years back he was named a “FOIA terrorist” by a govt formal, which is just laughable no subject how you search at it. But Leopold has adopted the moniker as his possess now.
One issue that he’s obviously discovered is that when the govt stalls and denies, it usually tends to make the most sense to just sue. Under the federal FOIA, organizations have a incredibly limited expression just before they have to have to respond, and they pretty much hardly ever truly comply with that (often having many years, rather than weeks). At some position, you just want to sue to power the subject.
So, which is what occurred in this situation, exactly where he sued the DOJ back in April 2021 owing to their FOIA shenanigans. I won’t go into all of the information, but Leopold was in search of details on the January 6th insurrection, and what was happening within the DOJ next that day. He filed a FOIA with the Govt Business office of Immigration Assessment. There had been some disagreements about which agencies/departments he really should be filing the FOIA requests more than, but sooner or later the federal government handed in excess of some paperwork he had requested (all over again, which belong to the public). Leopold’s lawyer questioned for expenses in excess of possessing to have filed the lawsuit, and it seems that the EOIR and the DOJ are being very and ridiculously petty about it, and filed an opposition to the charge ask for by just attacking Leopold personally.
It is a definitely bad glimpse for the federal government to go soon after a journalist for basically utilizing the law for what it is intended to be utilised for (and for which the govt has resisted obeying that regulation).
The submitting opens by saying that they didn’t even have everything attention-grabbing to hand about to him in reaction to the FOIA. Mainly, they look extremely set out that they had to obey our FOIA regulation and give Leopold what he requested for. That it wasn’t a little something juicy does not matter. I really do not see any place in FOIA where it claims that the authorities only has to hand above things that tends to make for juicy scoops. The way that journalists like Leopold come across the important stories is by requesting a lot of files and figuring out what is in fact newsworthy. I signify, this whole paragraph appears unbecoming for the DOJ to file:
EOIR experienced initially withheld only one particular e-mail chain beneath Exemption 5. But immediately after Plaintiffs
pressed the company, EOIR relented for the sake of transparency and judicial and celebration economic climate
and decided to make a discretionary release of the requested product. Unsurprisingly, given
EOIR’s role, the history did not include things like details of wonderful social value. To the contrary, it
incorporated dialogue drafts of an e-mail to EOIR personnel in the Washington, DC place telling them
to go house early for the reason that of the curfew Mayor Bowser had imposed on January 6, 2021. It is no
different than the variety of e-mail chain that lots of managers throughout the region may perhaps have sent
to workers on that working day. Instead of contributing a little something beneficial to the community, the launched
e-mail chain supplies Plaintiffs and the public minimal a lot more than the pleasure of reviewing the
e-mails of EOIR leadership.
The DOJ should not be having snarky about the contents of the document they have been required to hand around by law. But the filing will get even worse.
Irrespective of accomplishing just about almost nothing by submitting this suit in opposition to EOIR, Plaintiffs look for to
have the taxpayer finance it.
That framing is so obnoxious. The taxpayers shell out you to do your occupation, DOJ and EOIR. And you didn’t. And that is why Leopold had to file the FOIA ask for in the initially location. Do not try out to faux that this is some form of rip-off on the taxpayer.
The DOJ would make its different lawful arguments for why it believes the charge request is poor, but can not resist oddly petty particular attacks on Leopold. It keeps insisting that it was outrageous of Leopold to seek out records from EOIR relating to January 6th, but as Leopold explains he’d listened to rumors of many people today in the DOJ — which includes individuals with no apparent link to everything that was occurring — were being possibly organizing to resign or to publicly aspect with Donald Trump. Offered that, it helps make perfect perception to deliver the FOIA broadly to many distinct DOJ divisions. But the DOJ just seems definitely mad that he sent a single to EOIR.
But then it in essence states that the DOJ shouldn’t shell out his authorized fees… due to the fact he sends so numerous FOIA requests:
Certainly, as this Court docket has stated, “almost a quarter of th[is] district’s whole civil docket”
is comprised of FOIA scenarios and FOIA plaintiffs like Jason Leopold and Buzzfeed, Inc. “create
a lot of that backlog.” Am. Ctr. for L. and Just. v. U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Protection, 573 F. Supp.
3d 78, 83 (D.D.C. 2021). Jason Leopold self-identifies as the “FOIA Terrorist,” see
https://twitter.com/JasonLeopold (bio) (Sept. 19, 2022), and just one report calls him “the most active
particular person FOIA litigator in the United States now,”
https://foiaproject.org/2021/01/13/foialitigators2020/. According to the report, Leopold is 2nd
only to the New York Instances in whole scenarios submitted by media plaintiffs among 2001 and 2020, even
however he only started filing conditions in 2012.
Once more, this is Leopold’s job. He’s an investigative journalist, who has been effectively employing FOIA to provide incredible transparency about our government’s steps to the men and women they, in concept, represent. Complaining about the fact that he’s fantastic at his job and that the government is negative at its career of responding to FOIA requests is rather an argument.
And, actually, it is the peak of arrogance for the DOJ to complain that so numerous FOIA cases are filed in this court docket. If the government did its career and responded to FOIA requests absolutely and in a timely method, that would not happen. Never blame Leopold for your personal failures, US government.
The DOJ then argues that it should not have to pay out legal fees… mainly because the document it ultimately turned about wasn’t that newsworthy. But what variety of common is that? You only get authorized charges if you occur to uncover the govt was hiding the actually newsworthy things? That will make no perception at all, and essentially discourages FOIA requests and transparency by expressing that (1) the gov’t will withhold files, and (2) then make it a lot more costly for you to drive them to comply with the law… That can’t be how this operates.
Plaintiffs do not deliver a single example of how the data
demanded was utilised. And EOIR are not able to fathom what is newsworthy about the all those e-mails.
The DOJ also argues that mainly because Buzzfeed (who Leopold worked for at the time of the FOIA request) is a larger media corporation, it does not need to have authorized expenses:
Buzzfeed Inc. is a for-profit firm reporting that it provides significant profitability to its buyers from its promoting, written content,
commerce, and other revenue. See Buzzfeed Inc. Investor Presentation, August 2022,
This whole point would seem petty. All of it could have been prevented if the govt had just done what the law demands in the to start with place. The DOJ looks to be demanding all types of passes that it would be unlikely to present everyone if the roles were being in some way flipped.
Submitted Below: doj, eoir, expenses, foia, jason leopold, transparency