The possibility that Freedom of Information Act requesters can recover attorneys’ fees in FOIA lawsuits makes it easier to find attorneys to represent requesters on a contingency or pro bono basis.
Conversely, when new restrictions on the award of attorneys fees are put in place, as they have been in recent years, the availability of pro bono attorneys in FOIA cases has seemed to shrink accordingly.
FOIA reform legislation introduced last year by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would restore the previous standard which permitted recovery of attorneys’ fees whenever a requester’s lawsuit resulted in an agency decision to release the requested record.
The larger question of Attorneys’ Fees generally (not specifically in the FOIA context) is treated at length in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.
See “Awards of Attorneys’ Fees by Federal Courts and Federal Agencies,” updated January 24, 2006.