Best & Flanagan’s appellate attorneys file U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief on behalf of Public Record Media
On Wednesday, August 14, 2019 Best & Flanagan attorneys Katie Barrett Wiik and Brian Linnerooth submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court for its client Public Record Media (PRM). The public interest nonprofit organization is supporting the petitioner’s attempt to reverse a Fifth Circuit ruling that self-represented attorneys are not eligible to seek attorney fees under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) attorney fee-shifting statute.
FOIA’s fee-shifting provision, as amended by the 2007 OPEN Government Act, serves a significant public accountability purpose by allowing FOIA requesters the opportunity to seek fee and cost awards if they have “substantially prevailed” during FOIA litigation with the government. Under the statute, a requester who has substantially prevailed is eligible for “reasonable attorneys fees and costs,” which may be assessed by the courts.
In its brief, PRM argues that the Fifth Circuit’s holding in Gahagan v. United States Citizenship & Immigration Services, et al. ignores the plain language of FOIA and bars self-represented attorneys from eligibility for attorney fees under FOIA’s fee-shifting provision, effectively rewriting the statute to achieve a result not contemplated by Congress. PRM argues that this negatively impacts FOIA compliance by improperly preventing a class of requesters from utilizing one of its key accountability features.
Given PRM’s mission of encouraging broad public utilization of the FOIA, in addition to its own regular use of the FOIA statute to make public certain government records, PRM has an interest in ensuring that the FOIA’s accountability features are kept vibrant and available to public requesters. PRM asks the Court to take up this case, and to reverse the Fifth Circuit’s holding.
For more information, please see Case No. 19-73 - Gahagan v. USCIS, et al - PRM Amicus Filings.