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The Justice Department Celebrates FOIA Professionals and the FOIA’s 50th Anniversary at Sunshine Week Event

Dir. Pustay Introducing Acting ASG Delery

Dir. Pustay introduces Acting ASG Delery

This week, the Justice Department welcomed individuals from around the government and members of the public to the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy building to kickoff Sunshine Week 2016. This year’s event included the presentation of the 2016 Sunshine Week FOIA Awards and the premier of a short video produced by the Justice Department in tribute to the FOIA’s 50th anniversary.

Acting ASG Delery Providing Keynote Address
Keynote Address from Acting ASG Delery

Serving as keynote speaker at this year’s event was the Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery, who also serves as the Department’s Chief FOIA Officer. In his remarks, the Acting Associate Attorney General spoke about the history of the FOIA and how the law “made three important changes to the disclosure standards that previously had been included in the Administrative Procedure Act” including:

  • Making records available to “any person” rather than available to “persons properly and directly concerned,”
  • Setting out discrete categories of exempt information replacing vague standards that included “good cause found,” and
  • Providing for judicial review of government decisions to withhold requested information.

The Acting Associate Attorney General noted that upon its passage “the FOIA both empowered individuals to access governmental records and provided more specific direction and guidance to agencies.”

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the FOIA’s passage, the Department of Justice debuted a special video tribute to this important law. The video details the history of the law, how FOIA administration and processing has changed over the last 50 years, and how the FOIA has served as the foundation for the open government our founding fathers envisioned. The video is available both on the Justice Department’s video page and on its YouTube channel.

In addition to commemorating the FOIA’s 50th anniversary, OIP Director Melanie Ann Pustay recognized this year’s Sunshine Week FOIA Award recipients. During the award presentation ceremony Director Pustay highlighted key achievements in FOIA administration for each recipient. The following awards were presented by Acting Associate Attorney General Delery and Director Pustay:

Exceptional Service by a FOIA Professional or Team of FOIA Professionals 

This award recognized exemplary performance by an agency FOIA professional or team of FOIA professionals in carrying out the agency’s administration of the FOIA and advancing the principles set out in the Department of Justice's FOIA Guidelines. Three Exceptional Service awards were presented to:

  • Kara Christenson – Federal Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice;
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement FOIA Team – Department of Homeland Security; and
  • U.S. Army Special Operations Command FOIA Team – Department of Defense
Awardee Accepting 2016 Sunshine Week FOIA Award
Presentation of Sunshine Week FOIA Award to Kara Christenson

Lifetime Service Award

This award recognized those individuals with at least twenty years of service who have demonstrated high standards of excellence and dedication. Three Lifetime Service awards were presented to:

  • Stasia A. Hutchison – Research, Education, and Economics, Department of Agriculture;
  • David Goldsmith – U.S. Army Reserve Command, Department of Defense; and
  • James Kovakas – Civil Division, Department of Justice

OIP would like to again recognize and thank each of the award recipients for their outstanding work and many contributions in the administration of the FOIA.

In closing his remarks, Acting Associate Attorney General Delery praised the dedication of agency FOIA professionals and thanked them for their work over the years. He also stressed that there was still more work to be done. As he stated:

“On this 50th anniversary of the FOIA, it is appropriate that we celebrate how far we have come in making government information accessible to the public.  But for all the progress we have made, we certainly still have more work to do.  As we look to the future of the FOIA, we acknowledge that we need to train more professionals; respond to exploding numbers of requests faster, including through more effective use of technology, and ensure that content of our responses are as they should be.  As far as we have come, we cannot rest.”

As we continue to celebrate Sunshine Week this week and the FOIA’s 50th anniversary this year, be sure to continue reading FOIA Post for announcements and news from OIP.

Read the full remarks from Acting Associate Attorney General and Department of Justice Chief FOIA Officer Stuart Delery. 

Updated March 21, 2016