This template is for journalists seeking to compel a public body of the District of Columbia to turn over records requested under the District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act (“DC FOIA”). The template provides a general outline for complaints filed in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, with areas for editing in brackets.
DC FOIA Requests:
Any person has the right to inspect and copy public records of public bodies in the District of Columbia.1 The public records shall be made available in whatever format the request specifies, but the person requesting the documents can be required to pay a fee for the actual cost of searching for, reviewing, and copying the records.2 A DC FOIA request can be submitted online via the DC government Public FOIA Portal.3 If a FOIA request is submitted by mail, email, or fax, the outside of the envelope or the subject line of the email or fax should be marked: “Freedom of Information Act Request” or “FOIA Request,” and a daytime telephone number, email address or mailing address should be included in the request letter.4 The request should describe the records being sought as clearly and precisely as possible, including relevant names, dates, places, events, subjects, and other pertinent details that will help the public body to identify the records.5 A DC public body is required to respond to a FOIA request within 15 business days.6
If your FOIA request for public records is denied by a DC public body, you can appeal that denial to the Mayor.7 If the Mayor either denies your appeal or does not respond, you can file a complaint in DC Superior Court.8 If the Mayor orders the public body to produce the records and the public body will not comply, you can then sue in Superior Court.9 Finally, if you are seeking public records from the DC Council, you can sue in Superior Court immediately following the Council’s refusal to comply with the FOIA request.10
1 D.C. Code § 2-532(a).
2 D.C. Code § 2-532(a)(1), (b).
3 Located at https://foia-dc.gov/palmain.aspx.
6 D.C. Code § 2-532(c).
7 D.C. Code § 2-537(a).
8 D.C. Code § 2-537(a)(1).
9 D.C. Code § 2-537(a)(2).
10 D.C. Code § 2-537(a-1).