Letters Blogatory’s FOIA Case: The Government’s Answer

The State Department answered my FOIA complaint today. The answer was 30 days late—something I didn’t realize until I took at look at the statute—but who’s counting? 1

Here are my two favorite sentences from the answer:

[T]he Department admits that it has interacted several times with Plaintiff but has not to date produced any records responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA request, demonstrated that responsive records are exempt from disclosure requirements, notified Plaintiff of any determination regarding his FOIA request, or provided Plaintiff with a written notice under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(B) extending the time for its response and providing a date on which a determination is expected to be made.

Remember, I submitted my FOIA request in August 2011! What have you been doing, State Department?

The FOIA request that is the subject of this action may implicate information that is protected from disclosure by one or more statutory exemptions.

That’s it? It’s true that the Department is not required to identify the exemptions on which it is relying in its answer. But after nearly two years it would be nice to know if the government has an actual basis for refusing to produce the documents or whether it is just really, really behind in its paperwork.


  1. If you’re interested: ordinarily under FRCP 12(a) the government has 60 days to respond to a complaint rather than the 30 days every other litigant gets. But under 5 USC § 552(a)(4)(C), the government gets 30 days to answer a FOIA complaint. Look it up!

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2d ed. 2016), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

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