Supreme Court puts clamp on some FOIA requests

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that protecting agency candor in exercising expertise can outweigh transparency and accountability. The Sierra Club filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the U.S, Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain documents of a consultation between the service and another agency with the Environmental Protection Agency. The court upheld what is called “deliberative-process privilege protections” over transparency concerns. (SCOTUSblog, March 6, 2021, by Alejandro Camacho and Melissa Kelly)

Those seeking documents from federal agencies are now prevented from obtaining not only records of “unfiltered internal views of an agency” but also drafts showing “crystallized thinking at a given point” so long as the document do not reflect the final decision on an issue. The Supreme Court decision will reduce a litigant’s ability to show inconsistencies in an agency’s position to show it acted in an arbitrary, capricious or unlawful manner. (The National Law Review, March 5, 2021, by Jonathan D. Simon)