|(23 Jan 2020)
There has been a dramatic rise in pending FOIA cases. At the end of FY 2016, the number of pending FOIA lawsuits totaled 702, but by the end of FY 2019, that number more than doubled to 1,448.
In addition, cases that have been pending for two or more years are nearly two-and-a-half times greater, rising from 138 at the end of FY 2016 to 330 at the end of FY 2019.
The pending caseload has continued to balloon because closures have lagged far behind new filings. In addition, although the number of FOIA lawsuits has increased since President Trump assumed office, new filings plateaued this past year. Levels in FY 2019 were about the same as in FY 2018. Yet the total pending caseload has continued to rise.
Increasingly FOIA suits are being filed because agencies aren't responding to FOIA requests in the first place, even though requesters are waiting longer before heading to court. It is unclear from the data whether agencies continue to drag their feet once the case is filed or whether judges are taking longer to rule on litigants' motions, thus prolonging litigation. But whatever the cause, the end result is clear. Gaining access to government records has often become a frustratingly lengthy battle, and the problem seems to be getting worse rather than better.
To view the full report go to:
To examine overall figures, or drill in by government department and agencies within departments, go to the FOIA Project's "Lawsuits App" - now updated through FY 2019:
Contribute documents: If you were the plaintiff or attorney in any of these cases, we encourage you to contribute additional court documents - including summary judgment memoranda and declarations filed by either side. To share these with the FOIA community, you can upload them directly to FOIAproject.org at the "Contribute User Documents" link on each case detail page, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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