Public Records Requests (FOIA) Can Now Get You Sued
Imagine that you are attempting to request public records from a government agency. Imagine that you’re a concerned citizen who would simply like answers to your questions. Imagine that you are told NO! Next, ponder the thought of getting sued by government for simply requesting public information. Now you must defend yourself from your own employee – who is suing you with your own money (tax revenue).
Now imagine this is a reality, not fiction.
According to a recent AP article:
“IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Oregon parent wanted details about school employees getting paid to stay home. A retired educator sought data about student performance in Louisiana. And college journalists in Kentucky requested documents about the investigations of employees accused of sexual misconduct.
Instead, they got something else: sued by the agencies they had asked for public records.
Government bodies are increasingly turning the tables on citizens who seek public records that might be embarrassing or legally sensitive. Instead of granting or denying their requests, a growing number of school districts, municipalities and state agencies have filed lawsuits against people making the requests — taxpayers, government watchdogs and journalists who must then pursue the records in court at their own expense.
The lawsuits generally ask judges to rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged. They name the requesters as defendants but do not seek damage awards. Still, the recent trend has alarmed freedom-of-information advocates, who say it’s becoming a new way for governments to hide information, delay disclosure and intimidate critics…”
At this point, most reading are probably thinking, fake news, right? Sadly, its not. This concept supports dictatorial rule. Is that the United States? Just think, you are legally entitled to public information, but wait, only at your own peril.
Freedom? What is that word? Liberty, psh… Transparency? Is that not just a term once used to make the sheeple feel warm, fuzzy and protected from governmental abuse?
The reality is, courts have succeeded in keeping this “public information,” private. In at least two cases, documents were NOT produced according to AP. In many cases, however, the delayed, forgotten, and out-right refusal to divulge public information produces the same result, albeit, without being sued by government.
According to AP:
“You can lose even when you win,” said Mike Deshotels, an education watchdog who was sued by the Louisiana Department of Education after filing requests for school district enrollment data last year. “I’m stuck with my legal fees just for defending my right to try to get these records.”
The lawsuit argued that the data could not be released under state and federal privacy laws and initially asked the court to order Deshotels and another citizen requester to pay the department’s legal fees and court costs. The department released the data months later after a judge ruled it should be made public.
Deshotels, a 72-year-old retired teachers’ union official who authors the Louisiana Educator blog, had spent $3,000 fighting the lawsuit by then. He said the data ultimately helped show a widening achievement gap among the state’s poorest students, undercutting claims of progress by education reformers.”
Today, you can get sued for filing a FOIA request. Tomorrow, you may be jailed for it. Let’s change that! Get active. Turn the television off. Read a U.S. Constitution. Learn your rights and use them.