Guidelines set for FOIA attorney fees

Filing a successful FOIA request remains a high-risk endeavor in the District of Columbia. The Blog of LegalTimes reports that a three-judge panel ruled Thursday to set parameters for prevailing parties to recover attorney’s fees after a FOIA dispute goes to court. The ruling was a blow to the city’s police union, which was appealing a rejection of their request for legal fee compensation following a dispute with the city.

Judge Catharine Easterly, writing for the court, found that because Congress and the city government had the same goal in mind when it came to attorney fees — that trial courts should have discretion to award fees where it promotes open government — it made sense for D.C. judges to follow the same guidelines as federal judges.

The four-factor test asks judges to consider any public benefit from the FOIA case, commercial benefit for the plaintiffs, the plaintiff’s interest in the case and the government agency’s reasonableness in withholding the information requested.