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Title 28: Judicial Administration
Subpart B—Freedom of Information Act
§802.2 Purpose and scope.
§802.3 Guidelines for disclosure.
§802.5 Freedom of Information Act requests.
§802.6 Documents from other agencies.
§802.7 Denial of request.
§802.8 Expedited processing.
§802.9 Business information.
§802.10 Fee schedule.
§802.2 Purpose and scope.
The purpose of this subpart is to establish procedures for the release of records in the possession of the Agency pursuant to the provisions of the FOIA.
§802.3 Guidelines for disclosure.
(a) The authority to release or deny access to records and information under the FOIA is limited to the General Counsel and his or her designee.
(b) An agency record will be released in response to a written request, unless a valid legal exemption to disclosure is asserted.
(1) Any applicable exemption to disclosure which is provided under the FOIA in 5 U.S.C. 552 may be asserted.
(2) A record must exist and be in the possession and control of the agency at the time of the request to be considered subject to this part and the FOIA. There is no obligation to create, compile, or obtain a record to satisfy a FOIA request.
(3) Hard copy of electronic records that are subject to FOIA requests under 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(3), and that are available to the public through an established distribution system or through the Federal Register or the Internet, normally need not be processed under the provisions of the FOIA. However, if the requester insists that the request be processed under the FOIA, then the request shall be processed under the FOIA.
As used in this subpart, the following terms have the following meanings:
(a) Agency has the meaning given in 5 U.S.C. 551(1) and 5 U.S.C. 552(f).
(b) Appeal means a request for a review of the agency's determination with regard to a fee waiver, category of requester, expedited processing, or denial in whole or in part of a request for access to a record or records.
(c) Business information means trade secrets or other commercial or financial information.
(d) Business submitter means any entity which provides business information to the Agency and which has a proprietary interest in the information.
(e) Computer software means tools by which records are created, stored, and retrieved. Normally, computer software, including source code, object code, and listings of source and object codes, regardless of medium, are not agency records. Proprietary (or copyrighted) software is not an agency record.
(f) Confidential commercial information means records provided to the government by a submitter that arguably contain material exempt from release under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4), because disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause substantial competitive harm.
(g) Duplication refers to the process of making a copy of a record in order to respond to a FOIA request. Such copies can take the form of paper copy, microform, audio-visual materials, or machine-readable documentation (e.g., magnetic tape or disk), among others.
(h) Electronic records mean those records and information which are created, stored, and retrievable by electronic means. This ordinarily does not include computer software, which is a tool by which to create, store, or retrieve electronic records.
(i) Request means any request for records made pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(3).
(j) Requester means any person who makes a request for access to records.
(k) Review, for fee purposes, refers to the process of examining records located in response to a commercial use request to determine whether any portion of any record located is permitted to be withheld. It also includes processing any records for disclosure; e.g., doing all that is necessary to excise them and otherwise prepare them for release.
(l) Search includes all time spent looking for material that is responsive to a request, including page-by-page or line-by-line identification of material within records. Searches may be done manually or by automated means.
§802.5 Freedom of Information Act requests.
(a) Submission, processing, and release procedures. (1) Requests for any record (including policy) ordinarily will be processed pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552. Your request must be made in writing and addressed to the FOIA Officer, Office of the General Counsel, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, 633 Indiana Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20004. The requester should clearly mark on the face of the letter and the envelope “Freedom of Information Request.”
(2) Your request will be considered received as of the date it is received by the FOIA Office. For quickest possible handling, you should mark both your request letter and the envelope “Freedom of Information Act Request.”
(3) Generally, all FOIA requests will be processed in the approximate order of receipt, unless the requester shows exceptional circumstances exist to justify an expedited response (see §802.8).
(4) You must state in your request a firm agreement to pay the fees for search, duplication, and review as may ultimately be determined. The agreement may state the upper limit (but not less than $25) that the requester is willing to pay for processing the request. A request that fees be waived or reduced may accompany the agreement to pay fees and will be considered to the extent that such request is made in accordance with §802.4(b) and provides supporting information to be measured against the fee waiver standard set forth in §802.9(g). The requester shall be notified in writing of the decision to grant or deny the fee waiver. If a requester has an outstanding balance of search, review, or duplication fees due for FOIA request processing, the requirements of this paragraph are not met until the requester has remitted the outstanding balance due.
(b) Description of records sought. You must describe the records that you seek in enough detail to enable Agency personnel to locate them with a reasonable amount of effort. Whenever possible, your request should include specific information about each record sought, such as the date, title or name, author, recipient and subject matter of the record. As a general rule, the more specific you are about the records or type of records that you want, the more likely the Agency will be able to locate the records in response to your request. If a determination is made that your request does not reasonably describe records, the Agency will tell you either what additional information is needed or why your request is otherwise insufficient. You will be given the opportunity to discuss your request so that you may modify it to meet the requirements of this section.
(1) If a document contains information exempt from disclosure, any reasonably segregable portion of the record will be provided to you after deletion of the exempt portions.
(2) You will be notified of the decision on the request within 20 days after its receipt (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays).
§802.6 Documents from other agencies.
(a) Documents from or relating to Federal agencies. (1) When a request for records includes a document from another Federal agency, the document will be referred to the originating Federal agency for a determination of its releasability. The requester will be informed of the referral. This is not a denial of a FOIA request; thus no appeal rights accrue to the requester.
(2) When a FOIA request is received for a record created by the Agency that includes information originated by another federal agency, the record will be referred to the originating agency for review and recommendation on disclosure. The Agency will not release any such record without prior consultation with the originating agency.
(b) Documents from non-Federal agencies. When a request for records includes a document from a non-Federal agency, CSOSA staff must make a determination of its releasability.
§802.7 Denial of request.
(a) Denial in whole or in part. If it is determined that the request for records should be denied in whole or in part, the requester shall be notified by mail. The letter of notification shall:
(1) State the exemptions relied on in not granting the request;
(2) If technically feasible, indicate the amount of information deleted at the place in the record where such deletion is made (unless providing such indication would harm an interest protected by the exemption relied upon to deny such material);
(3) Set forth the name and title or position of the responsible official;
(4) Advise the requester of the right to administrative appeal in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section; and
(5) Specify the official or office to which such appeal shall be submitted.
(b) No records found. If it is determined, after a thorough search for records by the responsible official or his delegate, that no records have been found to exist, the responsible official will so notify the requester in writing. The letter of notification will advise the requester of the right to administratively appeal the determination that no records exist (i.e., to challenge the adequacy of the search for responsive records) in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section. The response shall specify the official or office to which the appeal shall be submitted for review.
(c) Administrative appeal. (1) A requester may appeal an initial determination when:
(i) Access to records has been denied in whole or in part;
(ii) There has been an adverse determination of the requester's category as provided in §802.10(d);
(iii) A request for fee waiver or reduction has been denied; or
(iv) It has been determined that no responsive records exist.
(2) Appeals must be made within 30 days of the receipt of the letter denying the request. Both the envelope and the letter of appeal should be sent to the Office of the General Counsel, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, 633 Indiana Avenue, NW., Room 1220, Washington, DC 20004 and must be clearly marked “Freedom of Information Act Appeal.”
(3) The General Counsel will make an appeal determination within 20 days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) from the date of receipt of the appeal. However, for a good reason, this time limit may be extended up to an additional 10 days. If, after review, the General Counsel determines that additional information should be released, it will accompany the appeal response. If, after review, the General Counsel determines to uphold the initial review, we will inform you.
§802.8 Expedited processing.
(a) Requests and appeals will be taken out of order and given expedited treatment whenever staff determines that they involve:
(1) Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual. The requester must fully explain the circumstances warranting such an expected threat so that the Agency may make a reasoned determination.
(2) With respect to a request made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, a matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity which affect public confidence. A person “primarily engaged in disseminating information” does not include individuals who are engaged only incidentally in the dissemination of information. The standard of “widespread and exceptional media interest” requires that the records requested pertain to a matter of current exigency to the American public and that delaying a response to a request for records would compromise a significant recognized interest to and throughout the general public. The requester must adequately explain the matter or activity and why it is necessary to provide the records being sought on an expedited basis.
(b) If you seek expedited processing, you must submit a statement, certified to be true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief. The statement must be in the form prescribed by 28 U.S.C. 1746, “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. Executed on [date].”
(c) The determination as to whether to grant or deny the request for expedited processing will be made, and the requester notified, within ten days after the date of the request. Because a decision to take a FOIA request out of order delays other requests, simple fairness demands that such a decision be made by the FOIA Officer only upon careful scrutiny of truly exceptional circumstances. The decision will be made solely based on the information contained in the initial letter requesting expedited processing.
(d) Appeals of initial determinations to deny expedited processing must be made promptly. Both the envelope and the letter of appeal should be sent to the Office of the General Counsel, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, 633 Indiana Avenue, NW., Room 1220, Washington, DC 2004 and must be clearly marked “Expedited Processing Appeal.”
(e) The General Counsel will make an appeal determination regarding expedited processing as soon as practicable.
§802.9 Business information.
(a) In general. Business information provided to the Agency by a business submitter will not be disclosed pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request except in accordance with this section. Any claim of confidentiality must be supported by a statement by an authorized representative of the company providing specific justification that the information in question is in fact confidential commercial or financial information and has not been disclosed to the public.
(b) Notice to business submitters. The Agency will provide a business submitter with prompt written notice of receipt of a request or appeal encompassing its business information whenever required in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section, and except as is provided in paragraph (g) of this section. Such written notice shall either describe the exact nature of the business information requested or provide copies of the records or portions of records containing the business information.
(c) When notice is required. (1) Notice of a request for business information falling within paragraph (c)(2)(i) or (ii) of this section will be required for a period of not more than ten years after the date of submission unless the business submitter had requested, and provided acceptable justification for, a specific notice period of greater duration.
(2) The Agency shall provide a business submitter with notice of receipt of a request or appeal whenever:
(i) The business submitter has in good faith designated the information as commercially or financially sensitive information, or
(ii) The Agency has reason to believe that disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to cause substantial competitive harm.
(d) Opportunity to object to disclosure. (1) Through the notice described in paragraph (b) of this section, the Agency shall afford a business submitter ten days from the date of the notice (exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) to provide a detailed statement of any objection to disclosure. Such statement shall specify why the business submitter believes the information is considered to be a trade secret or commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential. Information provided by a business submitter pursuant to this paragraph might itself be subject to disclosure under the FOIA.
(2) When notice is given to a submitter under this section, the requester shall be advised that such notice has been given to the submitter. The requester shall be further advised that a delay in responding to the request may be considered a denial of access to records and that the requester may proceed with an administrative appeal or seek judicial review, if appropriate. However, the requester will be invited to agree to a voluntary extension of time so that staff may review the business submitter's objection to disclose.
(e) Notice of intent to disclose. The Agency will consider carefully a business submitter's objections and specific grounds for nondisclosure prior to determining whether to disclose business information. Whenever a decision to disclose business information over the objection of a business submitter is made, the Agency shall forward to the business submitter a written notice which shall include:
(1) A statement of the reasons for which the business submitter's disclosure objections were not sustained;
(2) A description of the business information to be disclosed; and
(3) A specified disclosure date which is not less than ten days (exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after the notice of the final decision to release the requested information has been mailed to the submitter.
(f) Notice of FOIA lawsuit. Whenever a requester brings suit seeking to compel disclosure of business information covered by paragraph (c) of this section, the Agency shall promptly notify the business submitter.
(g) Exception to notice requirement. The notice requirements of this section shall not apply if:
(1) The Agency determines that the information shall not be disclosed;
(2) The information lawfully has been published or otherwise made available to the public; or
(3) Disclosure of the information is required by law (other than 5 U.S.C. 552).
§802.10 Fee schedule.
(a) The fees described in this section conform to the Office of Management and Budget Uniform Freedom of Information Act Fee Schedule and Guidelines. They reflect direct costs for search, review (in the case of commercial requesters), and duplication of documents, collection of which is permitted by the FOIA. However, for each of these categories, the fees may be limited, waived, or reduced for the reasons given below or for other reasons.
(b) The term direct costs means those expenditures the agency actually makes in searching for, review (in the case of commercial requesters), and duplicating documents to respond to a FOIA request.
(c) Fees shall be charged in accordance with the schedule contained in paragraph (i) of this section for services rendered in responding to requests for records, unless any one of the following applies:
(1) Services were performed without charge;
(2) The fees were waived or reduced in accordance with paragraph (f) of this section.
(d) Specific levels of fees are prescribed for each of the following categories of requesters.
(1) Commercial use requesters. These requesters are assessed charges, which recover the full direct costs of searching for, reviewing, and duplicating the records sought. Commercial use requesters are not entitled to two hours of free search time or 100 free pages of duplication of documents. Moreover, when a request is received for disclosure that is primarily in the commercial interest of the requester, the Agency is not required to consider a request for a waiver or reduction of fees based upon the assertion that disclosure would be in the public interest. The Agency may recover the cost of searching for and reviewing records even if there is ultimately no disclosure of records, or no records are located.
(2) Educational and non-commercial scientific institution requesters. Records shall be provided to requesters in these categories for the cost of duplication alone, excluding charges for the first 100 pages. To be eligible, requesters must show that the request is made under the auspices of a qualifying institution and that the records are not sought for a commercial use, but are sought in furtherance of scholarly (if the request is from an educational institution) or scientific (if the request is from a non-commercial scientific institution) research. These categories do not include requesters who want records for use in meeting individual academic research or study requirements.
(3) Requesters who are representatives of the news media. Records shall be provided to requesters in this category for the cost of duplication alone, excluding charges for the first 100 pages.
(4) All other requesters. Requesters who do not fit any of the categories described in paragraphs (d)(1) through (3) of this section shall be charged fees that will recover the full direct cost of searching for and duplicating records that are responsive to the request, except that the first 100 pages of duplication and the first two hours of search time shall be furnished without charge. The Agency may recover the cost of searching for records even if there is ultimately no disclosure of records, or no records are located. Requests from persons for records about themselves filed in a systems of records shall continue to be treated under the fee provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974 which permit fees only for duplication.
(e) Fee waiver determination. Where the initial request includes a request for reduction or waiver of fees, the responsible official shall determine whether to grant the request for reduction or waiver before processing the request and notify the requester of this decision. If the decision does not waive all fees, the responsible official shall advise the requester of the fact that fees shall be assessed and, if applicable, payment must be made in advance pursuant to paragraph (g) of this section.
(f) Waiver or reduction of fees. (1) Fees may be waived or reduced on a case-by-case basis in accordance with this paragraph by the official who determines the availability of the records, provided such waiver or reduction has been requested in writing. Fees shall be waived or reduced by this official when it is determined, based upon the submission of the requester, that a waiver or reduction of the fees is in the public interest because furnishing the information is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester. Fee waiver/reduction requests shall be evaluated against the current fee waiver policy guidance issued by the Department of Justice.
(2) Appeals from denials of requests for waiver or reduction of fees shall be decided in accordance with the criteria set forth in this section by the official authorized to decide appeals from denials of access to records. Appeals shall be addressed in writing to the Office of the General Counsel, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Office of the General Counsel, 633 Indiana Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20004 within 30 days of the denial of the initial request for waiver or reduction and shall be decided within 20 days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays).
(3) Appeals from an adverse determination of the requester's category as described in paragraphs (d)(1) through (3) of this section shall be decided by the official authorized to decide appeals from denials of access to records and shall be based upon a review of the requester's submission and the Agency's own records. Appeals shall be addressed in writing to the office or officer specified in §802.7(c)(2) within 30 days of the receipt of the Agency's determination of the requester's category and shall be decided within 20 days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays).
(g) Advance notice of fees. (1) When the fees for processing the request are estimated to exceed the limit set by the requester, and that amount is less than $250.00, the requester shall be notified of the estimated costs. The requester must provide an agreement to pay the estimated costs; however, the requester will also be given an opportunity to reformulate the request in an attempt to reduce fees.
(2) If the requester has failed to state a limit and the costs are estimated to exceed $250.00, the requester shall be notified of the estimated costs and must pre-pay such amount prior to the processing of the request, or provide satisfactory assurance of full payment if the requester has a history of prompt payment of FOIA fees. The requester will also be given an opportunity to reformulate the request in an attempt to reduce fees.
(h) Form of payment. (1) Payment may be made by check or money order payable to the Treasury of the United States.
(2) The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency reserves the right to request prepayment after a request is processed and before documents are released in the following circumstances.
(i) When costs are estimated or determined to exceed $250.00, the Agency shall either obtain satisfactory assurance of full payment of the estimated cost where the requester has a history of prompt payment of FOIA fees or require the requester to make an advance payment of the entire estimated or determined fee before continuing to process the request.
(ii) If a requester has previously failed to pay a fee within 30 days of the date of the billing, the requester shall be required to pay the full amount owed plus any applicable interest, and to make an advance payment of the full amount of the estimated fee before the Agency begins to process a new request or the pending request. Whenever interest is charged, the Agency shall begin assessing interest on the 31st day following the day on which billing was sent. Interest shall be at the rate prescribed in 31 U.S.C. 3717.
(i) Amounts to be charged for specific services. The fees for services performed by an employee of the Agency shall be imposed and collected as set forth in this paragraph.
(1) Duplicating records. All requesters, except commercial requesters, shall receive the first 100 pages duplicated without charge; the first two hours of search time free; or charge which total $10.00 or less. Fees for the copies are to be calculated as follows:
(i) The duplication cost is calculated by multiplying the number of pages in excess of 100 by $0.25.
(ii) Photographs, films, and other materials—actual cost of duplication.
(iii) Other types of duplication services not mentioned above—actual cost.
(iv) Material provided to a private contractor for copying shall be charged to the requester at the actual cost charged by the private contractor.
(2) Search services. The cost of search time is calculated by multiplying the number of quarter hours in excess of two hours by the following rates for the staff conducting the search:
(i) $7.00 per quarter hour for clerical staff;
(ii) $10.00 per quarter hour for professional staff; and
(iii) $14.00 per quarter hour for managerial personnel.
(3) Only fees in excess of $10.00 will be assessed. This means that the total cost must be greater than $10.00, either for the cost of the search (for time in excess of two hours), for the cost of duplication (for pages in excess of 100), or for both costs combined.
(j) Searches for electronic records. The Agency shall charge for actual direct cost of the search, including computer search time, runs, and the operator's salary. The fee for computer output shall be actual direct costs. For requesters in the “all other” category, when the cost of the search (including the operator time and the cost of operating the computer to process a request) equals the equivalent dollar amount of two hours of the salary of the person performing the search (i.e., the operator), the charge for the computer search will begin.
(k) Aggregating requests. When the Agency reasonably believes that a requester or group of requesters is attempting to break a request down into a series of requests for the purpose of evading the assessment of fees, the Agency shall aggregate any such requests and charge accordingly.