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FOIA Update: FOIA Focus: Randy R. Rader

FOIA Update
Vol. V, No. 4

FOIA Focus: Randy R. Rader

In almost any legislative process, the bulk of the work is accomplished by committees, and much of that takes place outside of the formal committee room, where there is considerable work required on such activities as analyzing expert advice, negotiating with special interest groups, and drafting legislation that attempts to accommodate the concerns of all interested parties. These are the responsibilities that regularly fall to the committee or subcommittee counsel and staff. This is certainly true in the FOIA area, where FOIA reform has been an extremely controversial legislative issue. Government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as various business associations, present compelling reasons for the protection of their records, while private citizens and public interest groups vigorously press for the greatest possible disclosure.

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"This year has laid a solid foundation for significant FOIA reform," says Randy Rader, General Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution. He oversees the work of the subcommittee, which holds FOIA jurisdiction in the Senate, for its chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R. Utah).

"This subcommittee has been more active than any other legislative committee in the history of the FOIA," says Rader. "Since 1981, this subcommittee has handled ten hearings, ten bills, countless amendments, and testimony from close to eighty expert witnesses.

"We've met with experts over the language of the bills, including law professors, private attorneys, and attorneys from government agencies such as the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Food and Drug Administration. We've reviewed proposed language many times with the news media and with special interest groups like the ACLU. Moreover, we have engaged in careful oversight of specific FOIA requests and agency operations at the requests of senators and their constituents."

Rader remembers well the beginning of these FOIA reform efforts more than three years ago. "In response to the need for reform of the FOIA," he recalls, "the Reagan Administration advocated S. 1730 before the subcommittee during the 97th Congress in the fall of 1981. The major components of this landmark legislation were amendments to the FOIA for expanded protection of law enforcement records and confidential business information, and procedural amendments concerning administrative time limits, fees and other matters. The evidence, including numerous private studies, argued persuasively for a rewrite of several aspects of the Act."

Rader worked throughout 1982 hammering out the fine details of an effective FOIA reform bill. By the conclusion of the 97th Congress, S. 1730 had received full bipartisan support from the Senate Judiciary Committee but never came to a vote in the full Senate.

"However," Rader continues, "the bill was reintroduced as S. 774 in the 98th Congress. This was essentially a refinement of the Administration's bill, a carefully crafted compromise. S. 774 was approved unanimously by the Senate."

In late February 1984, the bill was sent to the House Subcommittee on Government Information, Justice and Agriculture, which is chaired by Cong. Glenn English (D. Okla.). Cong. English, who had awaited Senate action on S. 774, then proceeded to engage in extensive scrutiny of it in the House.

"But House hearings on the FOIA amendments did not begin until just a few weeks before the summer recess," Rader notes. "They couldn't possibly recreate three years work in just a few weeks, even if that were necessary. Not surprisingly, they ended up failing to complete action on the bill."

This has made the next Congress important to Rader and his staff, who have been working long and hard toward the passage of S. 774.

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Rader has worked on Capitol Hill since graduating from The George Washington University's National Law Center in 1978. Initially he worked for Cong. Philip Crane (R. Ill.) as his legislative director, where he was primarily concerned with tax work and judiciary issues.

In 1980, Rader became General Counsel to Senator Hatch's Constitution Subcommittee. While he has spent a large amount of his time since then in the FOIA area, his other major concerns are various constitutional amendments, the Civil Rights Commission, attorney's fees and court reform.

Working with these issues on a professional basis has led Rader to put pen to paper. He has written law review articles on attorney's fees and the exclusionary rule, and he has edited books on crime and judicial reform, one of which included a chapter on the FOIA.

Rader also has been a member and officer of the Federal Bar Association for many years, where he currently serves as vice-chairman of the FBA Administrative Law Section's Government Information and Privacy Committee. In 1983, that organization honored him as an Outstanding Younger Federal Lawyer.

While his achievements and contributions have been significant, Rader clearly looks forward to enactment of a FOIA reform bill with great anticipation.

"In the 99th Congress," Rader promises, "the Senate should return to S. 774 with enthusiasm." He cautions, however, that "much depends on the willingness of the House to do likewise."

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Updated August 13, 2014