The Freedom of Information Act’s “FOIA” latest ruling stirs up controversy

The Freedom of Information Act’s “FOIA” latest ruling stirs controversy

 FOIA”  law allows US citizens the right to access information from federal agencies.

According to the Los Angeles Times, US citizens have encountered a setback in the ruling of the Freedom of Information Act.  The Virginia ruling was unanimous, in that you must be a resident of the state that you are requesting public information in.  If you are non-resident of that state, then you have no access to the public records and this ruling was adopted by a few other states; what a blow to the rights of citizens of the United States, however the good news is that although those states are not required to give access to public records, the can however choose to do so at their own discretion

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) “provides for the disclosure of information held by administrative agencies to the public.”  “The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government, it’s often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government. “

Search for request, Appeals and records can be found online, courthouse, the library of law and more. (c) 2013 Photo by D. Garvin

Anyone can use the Freedom of Information Act to request information from government agencies, including foreign nationals.  No one group has more rights over the other when it comes to requesting public information under FOIA.  However the journalists, bloggers or anyone involved with news media does have a few extra perks, such as waiving or discount of some fees and perhaps even speeding up the process, but don’t bank on that completely, it may not always be the case.  But, informing the agency of who you are and letting them know that you may publish some of the information can possibly be a motivation to the FOIA officer to make your process a little easier, faster and can possibly save you some of the required fees.


Your local City Hall is a good place to start your search for public city records.
(c) 2013 Photo by D. Garvin


Andre Washington of Atlanta Georgia gave an account of his own personal experience with public records search.  While driving home late one night on the highway, he was trailed by a police officer and was signaled to exit the highway.  Once exited, they officer walks up to his car to tell him that he were stopped because his tail light was out.  “I figure, it was an easy mistake, he can give me a warning and let me go.”  Instead, it became very intense, the officer insisted I get out, I replied, what’s the problem officer?  According to Washington, the officer was irate and replied, you don’t get to ask me questions I’m asking the questions right now!  He began searching the car, while holding him against the car.  Washington say’s “the more questions I asked the more aggressive he became.”  I recognized that kind of aggression w/a badge, so I did what he asked.”

After holding me up for 20 minutes I received a ticket for the light, says Washington.  I was angry about the unnecessary treatment and was advised to research the officer’s background.  I found out that the officer had the same complaints by several African Americans, going back seven years about his aggressive behavior and racial comments.  Washington challenged the ticket after finding out the information and won.  So, public records can serve it purposes for many reasons.  Doing an online search is an easy and convenient place to start your search. There’s also a site called black book online, it’s a directory that links you to a host of public records search sites.


Online search is another source for Public Records Search (c) 2013 Photo by D. Garvin

These sites share limited information for free, and for a price you can access more comprehensive information.  You’d be surprised at how much you can learn just by gaining access to public records including federal, state, county and local resources.   Public search can be done to research companies, employee verification, research public officials, and to protect ourselves against unlawful government activities.  It can also be a benefit for personal reasons, to gain information that will even help in negotiating business, creating proposals, background checks on employees and even aid in creating lists for sales leads.



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