FOI Notes: US, India, Legislative Openness, Research, More

21 March 2014

(Ed. Note: FOI Notes is unusually U.S.-centric this week because of Sunshine Week. Send submissions for FOI Notes to

United States: “The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.”

United States: Nearly half (50 out of 101) of all federal agencies have still not updated their Freedom of Information Act regulations to comply with Congress’s 2007 FOIA amendments, and even more agencies (55 of 101) have FOIA regulations that predate and ignore President Obama’s and Attorney General Holder’s 2009 guidance for a “presumption of disclosure,” according to the new National Security Archive FOIA Audit released to mark Sunshine Week.

United States: An infographic on the FOI requests of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

United States: A report on efforts by the Washington Coalition for Open Government in the state of Washington to tally the cost of providing government records.

Unites States: Here’s a compendium of recent news on state FOI legislation and what could be on the horizon by Frances Webber. “Though several states are taking strides to make public records more open and accessible, a few seem to be adding obstacles to obtaining public information.”

United States: The Administrative Conference’s Committee on Collaborative Governance met on March 6, to discuss Professor Mark Grunewald’s draft report on “Reducing FOIA Litigation Through Targeted ADR Strategies” and proposed recommendations.  (See previous report.)  Information and documents related to this project are available on the ACUS website, including a revised draft recommendation document, which incorporates the changes that the committee agreed to.  This version is labeled “PUBLIC COMMENT DRAFT 3-14-2014.” The Committee on Collaborative Governance will meet again on Monday, April 7, 2014, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.  This meeting will be at the Conference’s office, 1120 20th Street, NW, Suite 706 South, Washington, DC 20036. Comments are invited April 2, 2014. This committee meeting will be webcast. If you wish to attend in person, end an e-mail prior to April 4 to: or by clicking on RSVP on:

India:RTI loses bite as pending appeals choke system,” an article by Sandeep Pai in the Hindustan Times, March 14, 2014

Information includes:

More than 1.5 lakh appeals are pending before the central information commission (24,000 appeals pending) and state information commissions (SIC), HT has found. The Congress-ruled states of Maharashtra and Karnataka are among the worst performers, with 35,000 and 24,000 pending appeals respectively. Some of these appeals are pending since 2011.

Besides, lack of disciplinary action against erring public information officers (PIOs) has led to more applications getting rejected. Across states, PIOs are penalised in less than 5 per cent of the cases, HT has found. As per the Act, the CIC or SICs can impose a penalty if the PIO has not furnished the information sought within 30 days, or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information.

Guam: Guam Senator Rory Respicio announced that his proposed Freedom of Information Council was “officially adopted” and members will be appointed soon, according to a media report.

Open Data: A visualization of open data in 70 countries, correlated with wealth, from the Oxford Internet Institute, described in a Washington Post blog.

For one, there’s a prominent global “openness divide,” in the words of the Oxford Internet Institute. The high scores mostly come from Europe and North America, the low scores from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Wealth is strongly correlated with “openness” by this measure, whether we look at World Bank income groups or Gross National Income per capita. By the OII’s calculation, wealth accounts for about a third of the variation in these Open Data Index scores.

Transparency Research:The Common Law Right to Information,” a paper by Joseph Regalia.

Abstract: A once-thriving doctrine, today the common law right to information has been largely forgotten by U.S. courts at both the state and federal level. But courts have not paused to question whether the common law right still has a role to play in modern litigation. One reason may be the dearth of case law explaining the common law right’s operation. Another may be that courts believe this doctrine has been eradicated by the advent of freedom of information laws. This article first brings together the disparate authority on the common law right in an attempt to pin down the precise contours of the doctrine. It then examines the operation of the various federal and state freedom of information statutes and compares them to the common law right. Then it considers whether these statutes preempt or displace the common law rights, ultimately concluding that the state common law right is unlikely to be displaced, while the federal common law right is more likely displaced. Finally, this article suggests several relatively narrow uses the common law may still serve today in the realm of public access to information.

 Transparency Research: An article by Mariano Mosquera seeking to outline an economics theory of access to public information.



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