Last month, we reported that President Obama had begun making good on his promise of reinvigorating the federal Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"). One of the first tangible steps involved Attorney General Eric Holder instructing government agencies to favor release of documents to the public. Well, the good news keeps coming, with President Obama having recently submitted a budget for fiscal year 2010 that includes $1 million for the new Office of Government Information Services ("OGIS") that would serve as an "ombudsman" for FOIA requests by accepting citizen complaints, issuing opinions on disputes, and fostering best practices within the government.
This is in stark contrast to the previous administration, which submitted a budget for fiscal year 2009 that sought to locate OGIS in the Department of Justice and provided no funding for its work. Instead, under President Obama's budget plan, OGIS will be housed in the National Archives and Records Administration, as required by the OPEN Government Act of 2007.
While the FOIA ombudsman is only one part of the comprehensive reforms included in the OPEN Government Act, it plays an important oversight role for a law that is more honored in the breach than in the observance by government agencies.
More information is available at the Newsroom Law Blog.