Where and How to Submit a FOIA Appeal
OASCR will only withhold records (or any portion there of), if they are exempt from disclosure. If your request is denied, in whole or in part, we must advise you in writing of the reasons for the denial (see Exemptions) and inform you of your right to appeal to a higher decision-making level within the Agency.
If you disagree with an agency decision, the FOIA permits you to file an administrative appeal to the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (address can be found in the Sample Letter) within 90 days of the Agency's initial decision.
(NOTE: While e-mail attachments are often an important and legitimate means of conducting business, they also have the potential to cause great harm to our e-mail infrastructure, as well as to individual workstations. Please place the text of your FOIA appeal into the 'body' of the email message.)
If you choose to mail or fax your appeal, providing these optional items will expedite the processing of your appeal:
- a copy of your original FOIA request; and
- copies of any correspondence you received from CR regarding your initial FOIArequest and/or the FOIA control number assigned to your initial FOIArequest.
If you choose to email your appeal, please include in the subject line the term "FOIA APPEAL." Please also include in the body of the email the FOIA control number assigned to the initial request that you are appealing.
According to 7 C.F.R. Subpart A, Section 1.14, all final appeal responses require review by the USDA Office of the General Counsel (OGC) for legal sufficiency. When OGC has completed its review, we will forward our final response to you.
Sample Appeal Letter
[Enter Your Return Address]
Assistant Secretary for the Office of Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Room 212-A, Whitten Building
Washington, DC 20250-0115
On [date], I requested documents under the Freedom of Information Act. My request was assigned the following case number: _________________. On [date], I received a response to my request in a letter signed by [name of official]. I am appealing the denial of my request.
[Optional] The documents that were withheld must be disclosed under the FOIA because [list reasons].
[Optional] I appeal the decision to deny my request for a waiver of fees. I believe that I am entitled to a waiver of fees. Disclosure of the documents I requested is in the public’s interest because the information is likely to contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in my commercial interest. [Provide details]
[Optional] I appeal the decision to require me to pay review costs for this request. I am not seeking the documents for commercial use. [Provide details]
[Optional] I appeal the decision to require me to pay search charges for this request.
I am a reporter seeking information as part of a news gathering and not for commercial use. Thank you for your consideration of this appeal.
The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), an office created within the National Archives and Records Administration, offers mediation services to FOIA requesters. They may be contacted in any of the following ways:
Office of Government Information Services
National Archives and Records
Administration Room 2510
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (link sends e-mail)
Finally, the FOIA provides requesters with the right to challenge an agency's action in federal court. Before doing so,you ordinarily will be required to have first filed an administrative appeal.
If you are still dissatisfied with the Agency's decision after the administrative appeal, you may seek a review of the Agency's determinations in a U.S. District Court. In court, Agency representatives must prove that any withheld information is covered by one of the exemptions listed in the FOIA.