April 07, 2020

Crafting Successful Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests for Environmental and Natural Resource Damages Litigation

Mike Reis and Kim Silvi

Among the tools of the environmental practitioner, the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, and state- and local-level Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, are among the most effective means to gain access to federal, state, and local government records. A well-crafted request is both a needle-nose pliers and pry bar—and if successful, will enable a requester to remotely gain access to records that are still otherwise in agency control. This is all great and good, but as FOI laws have been on the books since the 1970s, and upwards of 860,000 FOIA requests are received by the federal government each year, some important lessons about crafting successful FOI requests might be worth remembering. Taken together the suggestions below may serve to better the odds that your request will receive dispositive documents from harried (and oftentimes) disinterested records gatekeepers:

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