A vast array of government documents may be available to private citizens. FOIA refers to documents of all kinds that are maintained by the government, whereas the Privacy Act refers to government documents that refer to a particular individual.
Under the PRIVACY ACT, 5 U.S.C. § 552a:
- Documents kept by the government about an individual must be accurate, relevant, timely, and complete.
- To be covered, the documents must be kept in a "system of records" that identifies the individual by name or other identifying method, such as a case number;
- The individual is entitled to obtain a copy of his or her own records, and may request that the agency correct any record that is not accurate, relevant, timely and complete.
- The individual may file suit in U.S. District Court if the agency fails to produce the relevant records or refuses to correct records that do not comply with the applicable standards.
- If the individual prevails in the lawsuit, the government is required to reimburse the individual for attorney fees and pay damages for the Privacy Act violation.
Under the FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT, 5 U.S.C. § 552:
- The government must release documents to the public in general, unless those documents are exempt from disclosure;
- An individual who has been denied access to documents may file suit U.S. District Court, asking the court to determine whether the exemptions invoked by the government were proper.
Washington D.C. Federal Employee Lawyer
The attorneys at Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch provide advice and counsel regarding all aspects of Privacy Act and FOIA matters, including:
- Filing precise initial requests for records that properly identify the records sought;
- Appealing initial denials through the agency appeal process;
- Filing request for correction or amendment of records;
- Filing suit over wrongful withholding of information, improper release of personal information, or other violations of FOIA and the Privacy Act.
Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch, P.C. has been litigating FOIA and Privacy Act claims for over 40 years, and our expertise can be invaluable. Please call us to schedule a meeting to discuss your concerns. If you are out-of-town, we can schedule a telephone conference. Contact us now.