Washingtonians Join Knight First Amendment Institute’s FOIA Case.

Washingtonians Join Knight First Amendment Institute’s FOIA Case

A University of Washington professor is one of five scholars in a Federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against a part of the federal Department of Justice, seeking disclosure of court records that are more than 25 years old.

The Knight First Amendment Institute, based at Columbia University, filed its FOIA suit August 21, 2019 against the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) for failing to release “formal written opinions” issued by the agency. The legal opinions deal with actions by federal agencies on matters of public interest. They have been withheld under a FOIA exemption protecting “government deliberations,” but in 2016 Congress eliminated that privilege for records older than 25 years. The Knight Institute is separately arguing that FOIA requires the OLC to publish its written opinions, regardless of age.

UW associate professor of political science Megan Ming Francis is one of the plaintiffs, and WCOG board member Kathy George, of Johnston George LLP, is assisting as local counsel.

Other plaintiffs include law and history scholars at Columbia, Emory University and the University of California at Los Angeles. Other counsel are Knight Institute attorneys Alex Abdo, Daniela Nogueira and Jameel Jaffer.

They characterize the OLC opinions as essentially “secret law” addressing a range of executive powers, policies and responsibilities on such topics as surveillance, interrogation of detainees and retirement benefits of federal employees.

Knight Institute statement

Complaint

Knight Institute request