Federal Court Rules Government Officials Can’t Use Private Servers To Dodge Freedom of Information Act

Forbes discusses CEI's court victory in which the judge ruled that government official's private email accounts containing work-related documents are subject to FOIA requests. 

The case was a big win for the open-government community and FOIA advocates, as the Justice Department argued that FOIA didn’t apply to emails to and from James Holdren, director of OSTP, on a private account. He had maintained an account on whrc.org, a domain maintained by Woods Hole Research Center, an environmental think tank.

The plaintiff in the case, Competitive Enterprise Institute, is a libertarian free-market nonprofit.

CEI had learned about Holdren’s account from other litigation that disclosed Holdren may have used that address for work-related correspondence, according Judge David Sentelle, who wrote the majority opinion in the case.

CEI pursued its FOIA request until it had exhausted all channels, then filed suit. The group lost at the district court level, but the D.C. Circuit reversed and sent the case back for further proceedings.

While the CEI v. OSTP lawsuit had nothing to do with Clinton, Politico said it was pretty clear the three judges on the D.C. Circuit panel knew the political atmosphere in which they ruled.

Now everyone knows, although it’s not entirely clear what will happen next in the email lawsuits.

Give the last word to the winners in the case: “The ‘most transparent administration in history’ has proven over and over that it has no intention of actually letting the American public know what it is doing,” CEI senior fellow Marlo Lewis told Politico. “Director Holdren is not the first agency head to be found using private email for his government work, but as we continue our legal battle in this case, we seek for this unlawful behavior to come to an end.”

Read the full article at Forbes.