Federal Court rules students should get fee-waivers for public records

UO’s public records office routinely uses fees and delays to frustrate the intent of Oregon’s public records law, aided by the desultory enforcement efforts of the local DA and the Oregon DOJ. UO even charges its own student journalists fees, and refuses to let them use ASUO i-fee money to pay those fees.

The federal government is much more reasonable about fees – I get anautomatic waiver up to $250, as a blogger, and so do student reporters. And now the D.C. Circuit courts has significantly expanded fee-waiver for students.  Frank Lo Monte has the news here:

… When a requester asks a federal agency to produce documents, the government normally is allowed to charge hourly fees for the time spent finding and reviewing the documents. But the federal FOIA statute limits what agencies can charge “educational institutions” to just the actual cost of making copies.

University of Virginia graduate student Kathryn Sack, aggrieved by a $900 bill from the Pentagon to locate records needed for her doctoral research, insisted that the “educational institution” discount should apply to her. A U.S. district judge disagreed, but on Friday, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled in Sack’s favor.

“If teachers can qualify for reduced fees, so can students,” Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote in the court’s 3-0 opinion. “ Students who make FOIA requests to further their coursework or other school-sponsored activities are eligible for reduced fees under FOIA because students, like teachers, are part of an educational institution.”

Students affiliated with journalistic publications were already eligible for the fee reduction, which extends to “a representative of the news media.” But a student doing a research paper for a journalism course unaffiliated with a recognized media outlet – or perhaps with nothing more than the aspiration of selling the work as a freelancer – fell into a zone of uncertainty that the appeals court has now helpfully clarified. …

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One Response to Federal Court rules students should get fee-waivers for public records

  1. John Abbe says:

    The Eugene Weekly just posted a great article on the high barriers that Oregon and Eugene governments place in the way of people seeking public records: http://eugeneweekly.com/20160526/lead-story/hide-and-seek

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