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FOIA Update: New Justice Department Policy Office

FOIA Update
Vol. XI, No. 2

New Justice Department FOIA Office

The Department of Justice has established a new high-level policy office -- the Office of Policy Development -- in place of the former Office of Legal Policy, the Justice Department organization of which the Office of Information and Privacy was a part for many years.

Under Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, the Office of Policy Development has been established as an extended part of the Office of the Attorney General, to serve as the Attorney General's principal staff for the coordination of policy matters within the Department of Justice. Additionally, the Office of Information and Privacy, which discharges the Attorney General's governmentwide policy responsibilities for Freedom of Information Act matters, has now become a part of the Office of Policy Development.

Office of Policy Development

The principal responsibilities of the Office of Policy Development involve both the development of policy initiatives and the coordination of policy positions on a wide range of legal issues and related matters within the Department of Justice. On behalf of the Attorney General, it also provides coordination of legal policy positions among the other departments and agencies of the executive branch.

Where such policy initiatives and positions become matters of interest to the legislative branch, the Office of Policy Development performs its coordination role in close conjunction with the Justice Department's Office of Legislative Affairs, which holds primary responsibility for the Department's legislative activities.

The Office of Policy Development is headed by Thomas M. Boyd, who served as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department's Office of Legislative Affairs under Attorney General Thornburgh during 1988-1989 before being appointed to the new policy coordination position. Immediately prior to that, during 1986-1988, he served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legislative Affairs.

Boyd, a 1971 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, came to the Department of Justice with extensive experience in legislative and legal policy matters gained over many years as a congressional committee counsel. From 1976 to 1986, after military service and a federal judicial clerkship, he served as Associate Counsel of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives.

Future FOIA Policy

The placement of the Office of Information and Privacy within the Justice Department's Office of Policy Development should now strengthen OIP's ability to promote uniform agency positions on FOIA policy issues within the executive branch-- particularly on "electronic record" FOIA issues, which are issues of both exceptional complexity and growing concern (see Department of Justice "Electronic Record" Report, Part I of which is published in this issue of FOIA Update).

As well, it should facilitate closer cooperation between the executive branch and the legislative branch on FOIA matters. On behalf of the Attorney General, Tom Boyd has stated that the Justice Department looks forward to working with Congress, in a spirit of cooperation, on all matters pertaining to the Act:

"The Department of Justice, under Attorney General Thornburgh, stands committed to seeking constructive solutions to even the most challenging problems of FOIA interpretation and implementation, through the cooperative efforts of all concerned, wherever possible."


Special Double Issue

This special double issue of FOIA Update contains the first of two installments of the "Department of Justice Report on 'Electronic Record' Issues under the FOIA." Part I, in slightly abridged form, is on pages 3-21 of this issue; Part II will be in the next issue). Also, see page two for new "FOIA Counselor" guidance regarding "mailing lists."

Go to: FOIA Update Home Page

Updated August 13, 2014