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PLN sues District of Columbia over public records access

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2008.
Press release - PLN sues District of Columbia over public records access - 2008


For Immediate Release
June 25, 2008

PLN Files Suit Against the District of Columbia for Failure to Comply with FOIA Request

On June 25, 2008, Prison Legal News (PLN), an independent monthly publication that reports on corrections and criminal justice-related issues, filed suit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against the District of Columbia to obtain public records under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act (DC FOIA).

In January, PLN submitted a FOIA request to the D.C. Office of the Attorney General under D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act. PLN requested records related to successful claims and litigation against the D.C. Department of Corrections, including documents related to public funds the Department of Corrections had paid out as a result of lawsuits and claims between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2007.

PLN filed suit after the D.C. Office of the Attorney General (OAG) refused to grant PLN a fee waiver for its FOIA request. While the OAG acknowledged that PLN was a member of the news media, it stated that it would not grant a fee waiver for the requested information as “it was not in the interest of the agency” to do so. In its lawsuit, PLN argues that the release of the requested records is in the public interest and would shed light on the operations of the D.C. Department of Corrections and provide the public with a better understanding of how the District of Columbia’s prison system is run and managed.

The Office of Attorney General also denied PLN’s request for the information to be produced in electronic format despite the obligations under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act that certain records be maintained in electronic format. The D.C. Mayor’s Office failed to respond to PLN’s written appeal under the D.C. FOIA. Consequently, PLN has filed suit to ensure that the District of Columbia fulfills its obligations under the D.C. FOIA, in order to preserve the public’s right to obtain information from the government.

The case is Prison Legal News v. District of Columbia, Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Case No. 2008 CA 004598 B. PLN is represented by Carl Messineo and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice.

Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Seattle, Washington, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. prisons. PLN publishes a monthly newsletter that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has over 6,800 subscribers nationwide and operates a website ( that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related court rulings, verdicts, settlements and other documents. PLN has successfully sued the Washington Department of Corrections and Federal Bureau of Prisons over access to public records.

The Partnership for Civil Justice is a public interest law firm based in Washington DC that litigates civil rights and constitutional rights cases. Information on PCJ’s litigation is available at

For further information, please contact:

Paul Wright
Prison Legal News, Editor
P.O. Box 2420
West Brattleboro, VT 05303
(802) 275-8594 or
(802) 257-1342

Alex Friedmann
Prison Legal News, Assoc. Editor
5341 Mt. View Rd. #130
Antioch, TN 37013
(615) 495-6568

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