Attorney General Holder’s 2009 FOIA Guidelines emphasize that “agencies should make it a priority to respond [to requests] in a timely manner.” This directive includes all aspects of FOIA administration, including the handling of requests for expedited processing. It is important that agencies ensure that they have effective processes in place to promptly adjudicate such requests. To encourage agency compliance with this distinct aspect of the FOIA, OIP recently issued guidance on this topic.
The FOIA requires that agencies grant requesters expedited processing of their requests when the requester demonstrates a “compelling need,” or “in other cases determined by the agency.” The FOIA also requires agencies to decide whether to expedite a request, and to convey this decision to the requester, within ten days. Each year, agencies report statistics on their compliance with the FOIA’s expedited processing provisions in their Annual FOIA Reports.
As agencies strive to meet the challenges of the increased volume and complexity of FOIA requests, it is important that they also promptly identify and adjudicate requests for expedited processing. OIP’s guidance highlights three areas where agencies can focus to ensure that they are providing timely determinations on requests for expediting processing. Agencies should:
Screen all FOIA requests at the time of receipt to determine whether expedited processing has been requested.
Be alert to requests for expedition that may be made after the initial request is submitted.
Establish clear coordination procedures with other offices that are involved in making the determination on a request for expedited processing.
The full text of the guidance, along with all other guidance issued by OIP, is available on our guidance page. OIP encourages agencies to review their procedures for adjudicating requests for expedited processing to ensure that they are efficiently and effectively fulfilling this discrete aspect of FOIA administration.