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Requesters may file an administrative appeal if they are not satisfied with a Department of Justice component's initial response. On appeal, requesters 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 determinations made by the Department's components, with the exception of the United States Parole Commission, which handles its own appeals. Ordinarily, an administrative appeal must be received by OIP 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 should be made within 20 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. After 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.

The Administrative Appeals Staff of OIP, which processed 3,398 administrative appeals in Fiscal Year 2013, continues to adjudicate nearly one-third of all administrative appeals processed across the entire federal government. At the end of Fiscal Year 2013, OIP had reduced its backlog of pending administrative appeals by 6.2%, from 353 appeals to 331.  

Finally, the FOIA provides requesters with the right to challenge an agency's action in federal court. Before doing so, requesters normally must 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.


Updated December 7, 2023