Each year the federal courts issue hundreds of decisions in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cases, addressing all aspects of the law. These decisions shape the way the law is interpreted and applied by the thousands of attorneys and access professionals across the government who handle FOIA requests, administrative appeals, and litigation. To aid those professionals, and to facilitate greater understanding of the FOIA overall, in March 2007 our office began publishing monthly summaries of significant FOIA decisions. In an effort to improve access to these summaries, in 2011 we established a separate Court Decisions page which organized all the summaries by topic as well as chronologically.
Today, we are proud to announce the launch of a new Court Decisions page and the most significant update to this FOIA resource since its introduction. The new, enhanced Court Decisions page adds two powerful features for viewing and searching through our case summaries while continuing to allow users to view these summaries by topic and chronologically.
The first new feature improves upon users’ ability to view case summaries by specific topics, such as “Exemption 5″ or “Agency Records.” Users will now be able to view full summaries of significant FOIA decisions related to a certain topic by simply selecting that topic from the “View Court Decisions by Topic” drop down menu on the right side of the page. Previously, these summaries were sorted into separate topical pages, with each page only containing those portions of the case summary that were relevant to the specific topic selected. For example, a court may have addressed both an agency’s use of Exemption 5 and Exemption 6 in its decision, but the topical page for Exemption 5 would only list the relevant information for that exemption. On the new Court Decisions page, users are able to view the entire summary of the court’s decision, including those portions relevant to the selected topic. Additionally, the summaries are fully tagged with all relevant topical categories, which can easily be accessed at the bottom of each summary. This allows users to continue their search of new topics as they read through case summaries.
The second feature for the first time provides the capability for case summaries to be searched using any keywords or phrases that are of interest. Through the “Search Court Decisions 2013 – Present” feature on the right side of the page, users may search for keywords such as “contracts” or “e-mail” to find all summaries that mention these terms. Searches can even be conducted by specific courts. For example, a search using the terms “Exemption 6″ and “S.D.N.Y” would produce all of the decisions involving Exemption 6 from the District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The new Court Decisions page contains all case summaries decided since January 2013 and each summary is posted based on the date the decision was issued by the court. As more decisions are added, the list of available topical categories will be expanded to cover all the areas addressed by the courts. We hope that the enhancements made to this new page will continue to make these summaries a valuable FOIA resource for both agencies and the public.