Washington, D.C. – Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) today filed a lawsuit against the White House Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) for records that would show the agency’s action, or lack thereof, to review two pending petitions for rulemaking, one of which is seeking an update to its official guidance concerning Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) processing fees. OMB’s guidance on this issue is critical to government transparency because federal agencies are required by law to conform to OMB’s guidance and routinely deny fee waiver requests that should be granted, based on recent judicial precedent.

CoA Institute Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor James Valvo: “Steep FOIA processing fees are a substantial roadblock for many organizations and individuals attempting to reveal how their government makes decisions. It is critical that OMB take action to update its outdated guidance document, which conflicts with binding statutory and judicial authorities.”

On June 2, 2016, CoA Institute submitted a petition for rulemaking to OMB asking it “to issue updated guidance to agencies on how to make [FOIA] fee determinations in compliance with binding statutory and judicial authorities.” This update is necessary because, “[d]espite Congress amending the FOIA several times during the last twenty-nine years and courts interpreting those changes, OMB has not updated its fee guidance since 1987. Federal agencies, however, continue to rely on OMB for guidance when issuing FOIA fee regulations.”

CoA Institute received no communication from OMB regarding this petition. On March 10, 2017, CoA Institute sent a FOIA request to OMB seeking all records that relate to the petition for rulemaking. OMB acknowledged receipt of the FOIA request, but two subsequent requests for updates on the processing of the request have gone unanswered.

The Archivist of the United States has also forwarded a recommendation from the FOIA Advisory Committee to OMB asking it to update this guidance document.

The full lawsuit is available here