The U.S. Government Is Suing People For Requesting Public Records

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freedom of information act

The U.S. government is suing citizens requesting public records all over the country, violating the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). The government is stating that it is in “good faith” to take away more of our rights, intimidate us and delay FOIA requests, thus challenging the notion of transparency and, in turn, the Open Government Initiative.

Throughout the U.S. government, a growing number of organizations, school districts, municipalities, and state agencies have filed lawsuits against citizens for making FOIA requests to obtain public information. The governmental bodies argue that they are doing so to let the court decide a matter that isn’t quite clear legally such as when the documents may be shielded by an exemption or privacy laws. But that’s causing problems, and becoming a new way for governments to hide information from taxpayers and even news organizations or individual journalists.

The practice, although highly ridiculed and uncommon, has been going on for years according to Columbia Journalism Review.

However, recently the Associated Press reported three different cases where the government sued citizens in the last year.

In the first case, an Oregon parent Kim Sordyl and journalist Beth Slovic sought details about Portland Public School employees on paid leave. The school board responded by suing them both, arguing that the records are exempt from disclosure due to the personal privacy of employees.

The second case involved two retired teachers, Dr. James Finney and Mike Deshotels, who were sued by Louisiana Department of Education for trying to get information on the school’s enrollment data relating to economically disadvantaged and English proficiency students. The two eventually ended up winning the case in a settlement but not before fighting for their rights in court to even see the data and spending $3,000 in legal fees.

Finally, the third case highlighting this abusive practice that the publication mentioned was Western Kentucky University suing two newspapers. The University filed a lawsuit against its paper, the College Heights Herald and the University of Kentucky campus newspaper, Kentucky Kernel, which sought records related to allegations of sexual harassment and assault involving its faculty. That story titled: “In The Dark: Records shed light on sexual misconduct at Kentucky universities” went on to win the University of Georgia’s Betty Gage Holland Award for excellence in college journalism and using a FOIA request to bring the questionable abuse to light.

“It’s appropriate to say it’s troubling the university (WKU) is suing its own newspaper for practicing good journalism,” attorney Michael Abate told the WKU paper, the College Heights Herald. “Even if they have a valid basis for withholding information, they still have to submit redacted documents.”

In 2015 a New Jersey Judge Michael Winkelstein ruled in favor of Harry Scheeler Jr. who was seeking Hamilton Township police surveillance video and was subsequently sued for his request, Columbia Journalism Review reported. In New Jersey, the state has a law called the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) in place of a Freedom of Information request. The judge ruled that such practices of governments counter-suing citizens was the antithesis of OPRA.

Winkelstein found that,

A government lawsuit against requestors subjects them to involuntary litigation with all of its concomitant financial, temporal, and emotional trimmings. A public policy that gives a government agency the right to sue a person who asks for a government document is the antithesis of the OPRA and common-law policy of providing citizens with a means of access to public information to keep government activities open and hold the government accountable.

Earlier this year in Michigan, the state House voted overwhelmingly 108-0 in favor of a bill that would make it illegal for government agencies to sue citizens who request public records.

The legislation was in response to a local county’s lawsuit against a newspaper that was seeking documents on two employees running for sheriff. A judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying the county had to approve or deny the request.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Klint Kesto, called the lawsuit “a backdoor channel to delay and put pressure on the requester” that circumvents the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

“Government shouldn’t file a lawsuit and go on offense. Either approve the request or deny it,” he said. “This shouldn’t be happening anywhere in the country.”

It’s troubling that so many of these requests have resulted in lawsuits against citizens who have a right to know public information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post and is Director of Content for Coinivore. Follow Aaron at Twitter and Steemit.

This article is Creative Commons and can be republished in full with attribution. Like Activist Post on Facebook, subscribe on YouTube, follow on Twitter and at Steemit.

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  • dav1bg

    Either it is or it isn’t. Our government is retarded, or it is traitorous.

    • The Mafia was never retarded, always traitorous. The Sheeple however…

    • darkhorse

      well, it IS retarded, and it IS traitorous…but is is NOT OUR government…it is the Jews’ government, entirely. Why? Because the American citizens have handed their country over to them…that’s why!

    • Laurence Almand

      Both. Read the good book GOVERNMENT OF WOLVES.

    • darkhorse

      you know what “our” government is…this is not OUR government…as I said for thousands of times the past 3 years…America was overtaken by the Jews…. You certainly know this by now,,,why pretend you don’t understand? You really do sound like a disinfo agent who works of Israel…I believe you are.

  • MarkovDeBeeste

    Misleading headline. “U.S. government” when used in print means the federal government. All the cases cited involve individual state governments. The federal government isn’t suing people. It doesn’t have to. It simply ignores certain FOIA requests, lies about security classification or denies that the requested records exist.

    • Laurence Almand

      Another government trick to prevent the people from knowing is to create huge amounts of paperwork, forms, etc. to discourage people from even applying for information, then playing the Delayed Action Routine, making them wait weeks or even months.
      Check out the rules for buying a firearm suppressor – and note the waiting period, fees, etc.

      • MarkovDeBeeste

        I did, years ago and said to hell with it I don’t want one that badly. Bureaucratic bullshit and high taxes is the best way to deny a right without actually making something illegal.

  • SP_88

    This is just a way for the government to stop people from using FOIA to get information about what they are doing.
    I think the saying that applies here is, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide”. This certainly shouldn’t apply to individual citizens, but the government is not a citizen, and they have to comply with FOIA requests.

  • darkhorse

    LOL!!!! So funny…..the Truth is out there…somewhere..

  • darkhorse

    People…. what do you expect when Americans have allowed the Jews to take over their country? Did they expect honesty, fairness, goodness, charity, love??? Ever read the old testament??

    • Roy Hobs

      “New World Order Pledged to the Jews”

      • darkhorse

        The citizens of the EU countries do not elect whomsoever is in charge of them….insane, correct? As in America, the citizens have no say in their government…or WHO controls their country. The Jewish Supremacists are controlling everything…and still the People do nothing…as they are being depopulated…

    • Strongs119

      “In Jerusalem, the United Nations (a truly United Nations) will build a Shrine of the Prophets to serve the federated union of all continents; this will be the seat of the Supreme Court of Mankind.”~ (David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, Look magazine, 1962).

      “federated union of all continents” — A clear description of globalist union, global order!

      “this will be the seat of the Supreme Court of Mankind.” — pretty clear that this is where the “federated union of all continents” will be governed from, the seat of the Antichrist.

      “Jerusalem” — So we know the city where this “Supreme Court of Mankind,” i.e. the central government overseeing the “federated union of all continents” will be based.

      • darkhorse

        it’s all THE BEAST….

  • Laurence Almand

    All government agencies are supported by the taxpayers’ money, and they are PUBLIC agencies, created to serve the public. Therefore, the taxpayers have the right to any and all information as to how their tax money is being spent. The FOIA should be enforced, because of the peoples’ right to know what is going on.
    Question: if the bureaucrats are doing nothing illegal or careless, why do they want to keep things secret? (I suppose they will use the old excuse “national security”.)

  • renee ciccioni

    This is what happens when big business turns a government into a corportocracy , surveillance and control.

    • darkhorse

      No, stupid Hasbara…you know perfectly well the US was taken over by the deadly Jewish Supremacists…of which YOU are one….moron

      • renee ciccioni

        Your such a fucking Nazi idiot , everyone is not a Jew and thus stupid shit stems from your attempt to demonize a whole religion on behalf of corrupt wealthy people who claim to be Jewish or have “Jewish” sounding names ,because your so ignorant , just like the idiot republicans and their purging of voters with black or Hispanic sounding names . Bigot scum like you and so many of your trashy kind are upset because your deluded backwards way of thinking is no longer the ignorant majority. Your all just ignorant and insecure poor you

        • darkhorse

          still insist on remaining a moron, I see

          • renee ciccioni

            You still insist on being an Ashke-nazi.

          • darkhorse

            whatever that silliness means…who would care, but a Jew?? You keep proving that you are one.

          • renee ciccioni

            An Ashkenazi is a gentile sect of the Jewish faith who believe they are the chosen ones that originated with the king of kazaar known as modern day Georgia the country , which have nothing to do with the Israeli version of Jewish tribes they are more related to the Mongols. And no I don’t belong to any redicolous religion of any sort they are all exclusive and stupid.By the way George Soros is Ashkenazi and so is Netanyahu .

  • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

    So much for “Freedom of Information”. It seems the irony has been lost on government officials…or they just don’t give a shit. I’m voting for the latter…