FOIA Problems For Immigrants Can Be Affordable To Solve (Video)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows individuals to obtain from the government documents and information about their immigration history, status or pending petition. Unfortunately, the government’s response to such FOIA requests are sometimes delayed or incomplete. Fortunately, when such problems arise, the FOIA status has a fee shifting provision that makes it easier and more economical for an individual to hire a lawyer and pursue the requested documents. Under FOIA, attorney’s fees can be awarded to a plaintiff who “substantially prevailed” in their lawsuit. In other words, the government may be required to pay the attorneys fees of a successful plaintiff. And under a legal principal called the “catalyst theory,” a plaintiff can recover his or her attorney’s fees even if that plaintiff does not obtain a favorable court ruling. So long as the lawsuit played a crucial role in motivating the government to produce the requested documents, the plaintiff has achieved the desired outcome and has “substantially prevailed” to warrant the fee shifting award. The presence of this fee recovery option makes FOIA litigation more accessible and affordable to immigrants and others that are being denied access to documents to which they are legally entitled.