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The firm recently achieved an important Freedom of Information Act victory for our pro bono clients the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School and the Protect Democracy Project. In 2017, our clients filed FOIA requests and later sued for records concerning President Trump's now-disbanded Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The government's subsequent document productions were untimely and incomplete, but ultimately revealed that at least two Department of Justice employees, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore and trial attorney Maureen Riordan, had used their personal email accounts to discuss matters related to the Commission’s work. Late last year, our clients moved for partial summary judgment, requesting the Court to direct the defendants to expand their search criteria and search the private emails of government employees. In an opinion issued April 30, 2019, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein granted the motion.
The Court concluded that in light of government employees' widespread use of private email for official business, limiting FOIA to official repositories would be "inconsistent with ‘the citizen's right to be informed about what their government is up to,’ the very purpose of FOIA." Accordingly, the court directed the government to search the private email accounts of Mr. Gore and Ms. Riordan and report on other employees' use of private email to conduct government business. The decision is a significant affirmation of the public's right to access government records, regardless of where and how they are maintained.
The team representing the Brennan Center and Protect Democracy includes Associate Carl N. Wedoff, who argued the motion, Partner Jeremy M. Creelan, Special Counsel David S. Sussman, and Associates Katie Rosoff, Michael J. Wadden, and Cayman C. Mitchell.