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Columbia Journalism Review
March 1, 2012

My Lawyer, Myself
By Erin Seagul

Inside well-funded newsrooms, investigative reporters can usually turn to company lawyers for help with stalled public records requests. But independent freelancers donít have that luxury, and many canít afford to hire legal counsel on their own. So when the time comes to stop asking the government for public records and start demanding them, what can a low-to-no budget freelancer without legal counsel do? Tools like Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2010, a comprehensive 711-page guide to access laws, make it relatively simple to get a good idea where to start when assembling a knowledge base about all things related to FOIA suits. The book, which is updated every two years, covers everything from case law to filing fees. FOIA-specific complaints, which can be modified and used as templates, are readily available at sites like the Electronic Frontier Foundationís FOIA Litigation for Accountable Government (FLAG) Project. The FOIA Project, a searchable database of FOIA-related filings compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) and Document Cloud, links to hundreds of court documents from FOIA suits.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2012
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