FOIA Futility

As law librarians, I’m sure most of us have a FOIA request horror story or two (hundred): requests that took months to fill, required numerous follow-ups, or were never fulfilled at all. Unfortunately, our FOIA experiences are not out-of-the-ordinary. According to a recent study most government agencies are doing a poor job of handling FOIA requests. The Center for Effective Government, a non-profit dedicated to increasing the transparency of government, recently compiled the results of a study they conducted to measure how quickly and accurately 15 government agencies responded to FOIA requests. The agencies’ performance was assessed under three criteria: processing requests for information, establishing rules for information access, and creating user-friendly access. Seven of the 15 agencies received failing grades: