The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has upheld a district court’s ruling that certain information relating to terrorist organizations is not disclosable under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center (“The Center”) submitted to the Department of Homeland Security a FOIA request for information related to…

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By Christopher Zoukis

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is facing a significant challenge to the relative secrecy in which it is used to operating.

Prisology, a nonprofit criminal justice reform organization, has announced that it has filed suit against the BOP, alleging that the agency has “flagrantly disregarded” important aspects of the federal government’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) through decades of noncompliance with laws that require it to post online substantial information about its day-to-day decision-making.

The suit, Prisology v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, was filed in United States District Court in Washington, DC.

Jeremy Gordon, General Counsel for Prisology, says that the litigation is groundbreaking.  The BOP’s failure to comply with the 1996 amendments requiring online posting of data under the FOIA has thus far escaped judicial scrutiny.  “Effective oversight of federal agencies is impossible where lawmakers and the public do not have information about agency operations and practices.  At present, the BOP largely functions in a shroud of secrecy,” Gordon said.

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By Prison Legal News

The California Court of Appeal held on November 16, 2012 that billing and payment records reflecting the amount of money a government agency paid in attorney fees to defend against a pending civil rights action were not exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), Government Code § 6250 et seq., even if the information was sought by a person seeking to assist the plaintiff litigants.

Attorneys David Mann and Donald Cook represent the plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit that has been pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court since 1999. That suit, which arose out of the arrest and detention of a husband and wife by members of the county’s Task Force for Regional Autotheft Prevention, has been the subject of numerous appellate proceedings, including Venegas v. County of Los Angeles, 153 Cal. App. 4th 1230 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2007). Following an unpublished appellate decision in August 2011, the case was remanded to the lower court for trial on the sole remaining claim involving a violation of Civil Code § 52.1.

Attorney Cynthia Anderson-Barker, a colleague of Mann and Cook, filed a public records request seeking documents pertaining to billings from, and payments to, any law firm representing the county in the Venegas litigation. After the county denied the CPRA request, Anderson-Barker, represented by Mann and Cook, filed a petition for writ of mandate to compel disclosure of the records.

The county argued in response to the petition that, under the CPRA’s “pending litigation” exemption (Government Code § 6254(b)), as well as other exemptions, it was not required to produce the documents. The trial court ruled in favor of Anderson-Barker, though ordered redactions to remove attorney work product-related information from the requested billing and payment records.

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