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.
Today, the L.A. Daily Journal ran an op-ed written by PLF attorneys Brian T. Hodges and Christopher Kieser on the Supreme Court’s takings decision in the raisin case, Horne v. Department of Agriculture. [update: the link to the article has been … Continue reading
Many friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed supporting People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners‘ challenge to the federal government’s unconstitutional Utah prairie dog regulation. These briefs are a reminder of how important the issue is and how unnecessary the … Continue reading
In defending the constitutionality of the Utah prairie dog regulation, the government makes a paradoxical claim. Conceding that federal intrusions into areas of traditional state authority are unconstitutional, the government nonetheless argues that the Necessary and Proper Clause allows the … Continue reading
The California Supreme Court is considering an important case concerning whether a state can frustrate federal law and deprive people of their livelihoods for no good reason. PLF filed this amicus brief in the case, joined by the Western Mining … Continue reading
On June 2, 2015, Division I of the Washington State Court of Appeals is set to hear oral argument in the first state case seeking to limit government’s ability to coerce property from land use applicants since PLF’s landmark victory … Continue reading
To honor Chief Justice Robert’s first decade on the Supreme Court — more like castigate him — the Constitutional Accountability Center has released a series of papers on the court’s jurisprudence. The most recent of which addresses the court’s environmental … Continue reading
In Oregon—as in most states—a landowner whose property abuts a highway has a right to directly access that road. Thus, an abutting owner is entitled to just compensation when the state acquires the landowner’s right of access in an eminent … Continue reading
This week, Florida’s Martin County Commission accepted settlement terms that leave our clients, Bob and Anita Breinig, no longer facing onerous fines and the imminent loss of their dream: their popular Flash Beach Grille restaurant in Hobe Sound. Instead, the Breinigs find themselves … Continue reading
Today is the anniversary of Marvin M. Brandt v. United States, more commonly known as the rails-to-trails case. In that case, PLF supported a property owner in a dispute over a proposed bicycle trail that would have split his land. … Continue reading