Bittersweet Victory: Man Wins FOIA Suit, Loses $1,300 In Fees

Fighting big-ticket Freedom of Information fights could be costly if a recent federal court ruling is foreshadowing a trend.

Sharif Mobley won a recent FOIA lawsuit that required the federal government to turn over an email exchange he had previously been denied access to, and U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that Mobley was owed a better explanation of why 13 records relevant to his request (for documentation related to his detention in Yemen) had been withheld, according to Courthouse News.

But the judge dropped a bomb on Mobley that may deflate his victory. From Courthouse News:

     Eventually the government found and released an unclassified email exchange between DOJ’s Civil Division and its Office of Legal Counsel, but Howell said this victory does not make the government liable for the $1,385 in attorneys’ fees that Mobley claims to have accumulated.

Mobley’s petition for fees also came more than six months after his case was closed, Howell said Monday.

“The court agrees with the defendant that plaintiff’s motion should be denied both because their petition was untimely and because they are not eligible for attorneys’ fees under FOIA,” the ruling states.

Courthouse News has the full story, including Howell’s opinion.