I am pleased to announce that A.2750-A/S.2392-A, legislation I authored, was passed by the New York State Senate this week and will now be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo to be signed into law.
The bill would award attorney’s fees to a prevailing party who has gone to court to challenge an agency’s refusal to provide records requested under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). The time and cost involved in these court proceedings can be staggering for individuals, and may deter them from pursing legal action to compel agencies to provide the records. This bill would encourage agencies to comply with FOIL in order to avoid potentially paying the attorney’s fees for prevailing individuals who challenge the agency in court.
Very often, the time and effort involved in getting a FOIL request fulfilled is trying enough. A person petitioning an agency through FOIL shouldn’t have the added expense of a lengthy court proceeding as well.
This bill establishes a two-tiered approach. In court cases where an agency failed to respond to a person’s request for records or appeal within the allowable time, the court may require the agency to pay for a person’s attorney’s fees if the person prevails in court. In cases where an agency denied an individual’s request for records and the court finds that there was no reasonable basis for the denial, the court must order the agency to pay the individual’s attorney’s fees if that individual prevails in court.
The Committee on Open Government recommended this two-tiered approach in its 2016 annual report.
The bill is sponsored by Patrick Gallivan in the Senate.