Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Document of the Week: Department of Justice FOIA Training Schedule

Here's the Department of Justice FOIAPost about their 2011 Freedom of Information Act Training Schedule (ht FOIABlog):

The Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy, in conjunction with the Department’s Office of Legal Education, will be offering five different training programs on the Freedom of Information Act for the upcoming fiscal year. These courses will be supplemented throughout the year by specialized conferences held by OIP on topical issues related to improving transparency.

The regularly scheduled training programs for Fiscal Year 2011 are as follows:

The Freedom of Information Act for Attorneys and Access Professionals

This two-day program is designed for attorneys, FOIA specialists, and other FOIA professionals with limited previous experience working with the FOIA who are now or soon will be working extensively with the Act. This program provides an overview of the FOIA including a discussion of the President’s FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines. This course also provides specialized workshops on the various FOIA exemptions and on procedural issues, as well as a discussion on proactive disclosures and FOIA fees and fee waiver requirements.

November 30 - December 1, 2010, Washington, DC
February 22-23, 2011, Washington, DC
May 3-4, 2011, Washington, DC
July 12-13, 2011, Washington, DC
August 16-17, 2011 (Seattle, Washington)

Advanced Freedom of Information Act Seminar

This seminar is designed for FOIA professionals and legal advisors of all federal agencies. It provides advanced instruction on selected topics under the FOIA, including up-to-date policy guidance and views from the FOIA requester community. This program also serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas useful in dealing with problems that commonly arise in administering the FOIA.

April 6, 2011

Freedom of Information Act Administrative Forum

This program is designed for agency FOIA professionals who have several years of experience with the FOIA and are involved in the processing of FOIA requests on a daily basis. It is devoted almost entirely to administrative matters arising under the FOIA -- such matters as record-retrieval practices, multi-track queue usage, backlog management, affirmative disclosures, and automated record processing. Designed to serve also as a regular forum for the governmentwide exchange of ideas and information on matters of FOIA administration, this program brings together veteran FOIA processors from throughout the government and encourages them to share their experience in administering the FOIA.

June 8, 2011

Introduction to the Freedom of Information Act

This half-day program provides a basic overview of the FOIA for agency personnel who do not specialize in access law. It is designed for those who either work with the FOIA only occasionally or need only a general familiarity with the FOIA in order to recognize and handle FOIA-related problems that may arise in other areas of agency activity.

March 22, 2011, Washington, DC

FOIA Litigation Seminar

This course is designed for agency attorneys and FOIA professionals and focuses on the issues that arise when FOIA requests become the subject of litigation. The seminar will provide guidance on successful litigation strategy and will address in detail the preparation of Vaughn Indices and declarations.

November 17, 2010, Washington, DC

To find further information about these seminars, including application requirements and enrollment information, go to the Office of Legal Education,, select “OLE Course Calendar,” then select “Description of courses,” and scroll down to the name of the seminar in which you are interested. For enrollment information, return to “OLE Course Calendar” and select “Procedures to attend a course.” (posted 08/09/2010)
What can one say? Training has become a substitute for action, IMHO. Much of this information could be put in a handbook accessible on the internet. After the FOIA officers take the training, what sort of supervision, incentives, or sanctions would be put in place to improve FOIA performance?

I attended one of these type of events at the Department of Justice, addressed by Attorney General Holder. So far as I could tell, it was about a capella singing and speechmaking. I didn't see any improvement of the handling of my FOIA requests. In fact, my pending request with the US State Department has been handled worse than a similar FOIA request made during the Bush administration.

IMHO, It would be far better for DoJ to start disciplinary action through the Merit Systems Protection Board to remove recalcitrant FOIA officers, than to hold "seminars."

A case in point: Washington, DC's WAMTA Metro held numrous "leadership training" programs for managers over the last few years. The predictable result has been the complete collapse of management and, indeed, the Metro system itself. Ten dead, at least in part due to spending on training seminars instead of track repair. A shambles where teenagers brawl on station platforms at night.

Action now, not training holidays in South Carolina, is needed from the Department of Justice to make FOIA more than just window-dressing, IMHO...