Appeals

 

Requesters may file an administrative appeal if they are not satisfied with a Department of Justice component's initial response. Such appeals can challenge any adverse determination made by the component.

Requesters will be advised of their right to file an administrative appeal in the component's response letter containing the adverse determination. The Office of Information Policy (OIP) adjudicates administrative appeals arising from the actions of forty of the Department's forty-one components, while the United States Parole Commission handles its own appeals. Ordinarily, an administrative appeal must be received within 60 days of the date of the component's determination letter. Administrative appeals are thoroughly reviewed by an attorney in OIP, who examines the entire process connected with the handling of the request, including reviewing the sufficiency of the search and the rationale for any withholdings that were made. The attorney will have all of the files pertaining to the initial request and will make an independent determination whether the component has properly handled the request.

The FOIA provides that appeal determinations be made within twenty business days. After completion of its review, OIP will advise the requester of its determination. OIP may affirm the component's action in full, in which case it will identify the reason why the component's action was proper. Alternatively, it may affirm part of the component's action, but otherwise "remand" the request in part for the component to take some further action. Under some circumstances, it may remand the entire request to the component for further action. When a case is remanded, requesters will have an opportunity to appeal again to OIP if they are dissatisfied in any respect with the component's action on remand.

Since the Department of Justice first published its Open Government Plan in 2010, it has continued to achieve significant administrative appeal backlog reduction. The Administrative Appeals staff of OIP, which processed 3,362 administrative appeals in FY 2011, continues to adjudicate more administrative appeals per year than it receives. As a result, the Department's administrative appeal backlog has been reduced by 41% from FY 2010. Further, the Department continues to reduce the response time taken to adjudicate administrative appeals. At the end of FY 2011, the age of the oldest appeal had been reduced by 40% and no administrative appeal had been pending with the Department for more than six months.

Finally, the FOIA provides requesters with the right to challenge an agency's action in federal court. Before doing so, it is often preferable and at times required for requesters to first file an administrative appeal. In its appeal adjudications, OIP advises requesters of their right to seek judicial review. OIP also advises requesters that the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives and Records Administration offers mediation services as an alternative to litigation.