FOIA Lawsuits Mirror News Headlines And Increase 35 Percent
(09 Dec 2016) Very detailed court records of the near record 512 suits brought under the Freedom of Information Act in FY 2016 provide a detailed roadmap of how businesses, political groups, reporters and many others used the powerful law to achieve their widely varied goals.

Court records obtained, organized, and annotated for by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University reveal that FOIA litigation increased by 35 percent during the past five years and often mirrored - and sometimes drove - news headlines.

This very recent data slice includes requests by the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, the Republican National Committee, the State of Kansas, employees of the Russian airline Aeroflot, Chelsea Manning - the former soldier convicted of illegally disclosing classified material to WikiLeaks - and numerous news and advocacy organizations. The FY 2016 filings covered a wide range of matters including private email accounts, national security, immigration, the environment and even Donald Trump, now the president-elect.

Our examination of the same court data for the last 16 years also showed that the 3,416 such suits brought during the Obama Administration are fully a quarter higher than the 2,660 filed in the Bush years.

While many factors may have contributed to this rise, including changes in the law and a growing willingness to challenge FOIA practices in court on the part of public interest and advocacy groups, the topics covered highlight the important role FOIA played in helping ensure a vibrant democracy.

For further details, see our report just posted on

Updated and Expanded FOIA Lawsuit App Released

Accompanying this report, a free user tool allows the public to drill into these numbers to track FOIA litigation trends and see just how long suits have taken to complete. Users can examine overall figures, or drill in by agency:

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