A modest proposal

What if we, the people, were to ask federal administrative agencies to respond in a timely manner to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?  The current denizens of the federal government tell us they will respond only if and when sued.  Otherwise, we, the people, can pound salt.

That’s what happened in our challenge to the National Forest Service’s decision to padlock Plumas National Forest, Granat v. USDA.  Our clients asked for background information regarding the Forest Service’s action closing thousands of roads and trails to motorized travel, making Plumas National Forest accessible only to the most able-bodied among us.  The lawsuit addresses a number of important legal violations by the government, including the Forest Service’s failure to respond to FOIA requests.

As soon as we filed the Complaint, the Forest Service provided the information that it had withheld for almost five years.  At the same time, the Forest Service filed a Motion to Dismiss the FOIA claims, on the ground that, because the information was provided after we sued, the FOIA claims were “moot,” and the court could not provide any relief.

Not so fast.  We filed an opposition to the motion, arguing that Forest Service employees must respond to FOIA requests in a timely manner and not wait until they are sued to comply with the law.  What’s the point of having a law that guarantees citizens the right to information regarding how their government operates if government employees can violate it with impunity, as long as they comply after being sued?  The most charitable view is that the government is encouraging litigation. A less charitable view is that the arrogance of federal employees is eviscerating the FOIA.

Our modest proposal is this.  The federal government should comply with the FOIA in a timely manner, before it is sued. The current Administration, which promised to be the most transparent, has turned out to be among the least transparent, thereby turning the FOIA on its head.

Long-awaited Clean Water Act rule published

The final rule redefining “waters of the United States,” subject to federal control under the Clean Water Act, was published today in the Federal Register.  According to the rule, it will become effective on August 28, 2015, and will be … Continue reading

It is almost never “rational, never mind ‘appropriate’” to ignore regulatory costs

Today’s Supreme Court decision in Michigan, et al. v. EPA (consolidated with Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA and National Mining Assoc. v. EPA) invalidated EPA’s regulation on electric power plant hazardous air pollutants for not taking its enormous costs … Continue reading

President’s weekly report — June 26, 2015

The physical invasion of the raisin snatchers — a property rights victory at the Supreme Court  In a week marked by several major Supreme Court decisions that were quite disappointing to advocates of limited government and the rule of law, there was one … Continue reading

President’s weekly report — June 19, 2015

Bad news on property rights from the California Supreme Court To celebrate the Magna Carta’s 800th birthday, the California Supreme Court issued this unanimous and depressing opinion on the state of property rights in California.  California Building Industry Association v. … Continue reading

More clarification on “waters of the United States”

We have noted earlier that the EPA and the Corps of Engineers have issued a “pre-publication” version of their final rule redefining those waters (and land features) subject to heavy-handed regulation under the Clean Water Act, known as “waters of … Continue reading

President’s weekly report — June 12, 2015

California Supreme Court to rule on forced housing subsidies We’re expecting a ruling on Monday in California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose, the challenge to San Jose’s affordable housing mandate.  While it admitted that it had not shown … Continue reading

ICYMI: Capitol Hill event on the constitutional limits of the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

On Tuesday, June 2, 2015, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) and Competitive Enterprise Institute held a joint event on Capitol Hill to discuss the constitutional limits of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and U.S. Rep. … Continue reading

There are many ways to protect endangered species

If species aren’t protected under the Endangered Species Act’s burdensome approach, they’ll receive no protection at all. This is an all too common refrain. But it’s a false choice. There are many ways to try to conserve and recover species. … Continue reading