Next Steps: What to Do If Your FOIL Request is Denied
Under the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), one has the right to submit a request to City and State authorities and agencies to access public records. However, it's not uncommon for FOIL requests to be denied by the authorities and agencies for various reasons. So what should you do if your FOIL request is denied?
Any denial of your FOIL request by a government authority or agency must be in writing. The denial must include important information including the following:
· The specific allowable exemption under FOIL Law which is the grounds for the denial of the request. Such grounds may include: personal privacy, interference with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings, public safety or deliberative process. The denial should also cite the specific section of FOIL or other applicable law that allows for the cited exemption.
· Instructions about how to proceed with an appeal of the determination, including the name and contact information of the person or office to whom the appeal should be directed and the period of time within which such an appeal must be made.
· Contact information for the Records Access Officer who can provide additional information about the denial and the agency's procedures for handling FOIL requests.
You have the right to appeal the denial request issued to the agency's FOIL Appeals Officer or other designated person. The appeal must be made in writing within 30 days of receiving the denial. In your appeal, you should explain why you believe the denial was wrong and provide any additional information that may support your case. This process is known as “exhausting administrative remedies”. Upon review of your appeal, the agency will issue a Final Determination, which may uphold the original agency decision, or overturn it in whole or in part and grant the release of requested records.
If the agency upholds its initial decision to deny your FOIL request in whole or in part, you have the right to file a lawsuit, called an Article 78 proceeding, with the Supreme Court in the appropriate county to challenge this Final Determination and compel the agency to release the requested records. It is important to note, that except in exceptional circumstances, one cannot seek judicial relief without first exhausting one’s administrative remedies and obtaining a Final Determination from the agency from which you requested the records.