How to Make a Freedom of Information Act Request- Part 6

Rincker Law Food & Ag Law Leave a Comment

This is Part 6 of a 6 Part Blog Series on “How to Make a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) Request“.  Make sure to read the previous 5 blog posts to get the full picture! 

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Step 6:  Review FOIA Request

After the agency has received your fees, it will process your request. The agency may send you a written “initial determination” of documents available. FOIA allows for access to all federal agency records except for documents pertaining to sensitive law enforcement and national security matters. The nine exempted FOIA materials are as follows:

1. Classified national defense files;

2. Internal agency rules and practices;

3. Information prohibited under another federal law;

4. Trade secrets and confidential business information;

5. Inter-agency or intra-agency communications;

6. Information involving matters of personal privacy (but may be obtained under a Privacy Act request);

7. Certain types of information compiled for law enforcement (e.g., documents for an ongoing investigation);

8. Information relating to the supervision of financial institutions; and

9. Geological information on wells.

See also N.Y. Public Officers Law § 87(2) for New York exemptions.

After receiving your FOIA/FOIL request from the government, make sure that the government did not withhold something that it should not have or inadvertently omitted requested documentation. The government is required to use a “reasonable effort” when searching for your records. If you feel that you are missing some records, you can write a letter appealing to either the federal or New York agency. Be sure to check the maximum time period for preparing an appeal (which can vary somewhat among government agencies).

Finally, if you find incorrect information in public records about yourself or your farm, you should write back to the agency explaining the changes that you are requesting. Should your request for such changes to be made, the agency is required by law to notify you of its receipt of such an amendment, typically within ten days. The federal agency may request further proof before it will make the correction in the public records on you or your agri-business.

This is an excerpt from my first book that I co-authored with Pat Dillon, an Iowa agriculture lawyer titled “Field Manual: Legal Guide for New York Farmers and Food Entrepreneurs” available on CreateSpace, Amazon, Kindle and iBooks. You can find out more about this book here.

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