Specially-Designated ‘FOIA Denial Officers’ Are Handling The Education’s Rejected Requests

August 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

Specially-Designated ‘FOIA Denial Officers’ Are Handling The Dept. Of Education’s Rejected Requests
from the we’ve-got-some-bad-news-and-some-bad-news dept
While you would think this position exists at multiple agencies (NSA, FBI, CIA, the NYPD), it’s never been captured in stark black-and-white. Morgan Smith, reporter for the Texas Tribune, recently tweeted out a photo of a rejected FOIA request. A rejected FOIA is not necessarily newsworthy. But it is when it’s been rejected by someone bearing the unlikely title of “FOIA Denial Officer.”

Taylor D. August, of the Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, is also a FOIA Denial Officer. Considering the government’s general antipathy towards transparency, you’d think several agencies would have a full-time request denier on staff. But while many agencies spend more time stonewalling and denying requests, only the Dept. of Education actually has designated employees on hand solely to reject requests.

A look at the DOE’s FOIA FAQ gives us the first clue:
10. Who has the authority in ED to withhold documents (in part/whole)?

The FOIA Officers, the Office of Inspector General and the Regional FOIA Denial Officers have the authority to withhold documents.
It appears this agency is extremely well-equipped to handle numerous rejections. Three tiers of rejection are available to requesters, running all the way up to the OIG. There’s no reason given as to why the DOE would need regional “denial officers,” but this position traces back to 2006.

In a section titled (of all things) “Customer Service,” the DOE details its FOIA response automation, which routes through the Office for Civil Rights. Citing the “significant number” of requests it receives (at that point averaging around 900 per year), the agency detailed its efforts to keep up with the paperwork.
To further customer service with respect to FOIA and Privacy Act requests, OCR has been a significant participant in the Department’s initiative to automate case management under these laws. Executive Order 13392, “Improving Agency Disclosure of Information,” issued on Dec. 14, 2005, emphasizes the need for more efficient and effective processing of FOIA and Privacy Act requests.
What most of us would believe was an order intended to increase the release of responsive documents, the DOE read it as an indication it wasn’t rejecting requests efficiently enough.
In addition, in FY 2006, consistent with Executive Order 13392, OCR established new FOIA procedures, including delegation to the 12 OCR office directors of the authority of FOIA denial officers. This allows FOIA requests to be processed in a more efficient and timely manner, and establishes clear accountability for FOIA processing.
As of 2006, the DOE had 12 more officials dedicated solely to rejecting FOIA requests than all other government agencies combined. (Unofficial numbers obviously impossible to obtain, much less verify, but the term “FOIA denial officer” produces search results that indicate only the DOE has such a position.)

More details on the “Denial Officers” can be found in the agency’s FOIA policies and procedures (embedded below.) Here’s the definition of the term:
Denial Officers. The FOIA Officers, the Secretary’s Regional Representatives, or officials designated by them (Regional FOIA Review Officers), and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) who are authorized to withhold records, in whole or in part, that fall within one (1) or more of the nine (9) exemptions or three (3) exclusions of the FOIA.
Initial determinations are made by regular FOIA officers who look for possible withholding exemptions and consider fee waivers. This is handled regionally and requests possibly eligible for rejection are passed on to one of the 12 regional denial officers.
In each instance in which it is recommended that record(s) or portion(s) thereof be withheld, carefully separate materials to be withheld from those to be released, redact (e.g., remove) all exempt information from the records, and forward a copy of the redacted materials, along with an unredacted version for comparison, to the appropriate denial official. Indicate where in the records the redactions occur and why the relevant exemption(s) apply;

In each instance where “no responsive records” are located, forward (a) a memorandum to the appropriate denial official describing with particularity what records (both electronic and hard copy) were searched, search times (differentiating between computer search times and manual searches since there is a different fee rate assessed for each of these searches), and who conducted the search, and stating that the search results were negative together with (b) a draft denial letter to the requestor to be signed by a FOIA Officer;
Denial officers will always be the be the bearer of bad news.
If the denial official agrees with the recommendation to deny the request, the denial official notifies the requestor in writing of the decision to withhold the information, in whole or in part, and informs the requestor of his/her appeal rights.
However, the denial officer isn’t solely limited to writing rejection letters. He or she can also push back.
If the denial official disagrees with the recommendation to deny the request, he/she notifies the FOIA Coordinator and the PO Action Office and directs the FOIA Coordinator to provide the records to the requestor.
At which point, the requester receives the responsive documents thanks to a denial officer, but from someone whose title is less resolutely negative. As much fun as it might be to press the REJECT button, denial officers will never know the joy of making a requester happy. It’s a thankless job with a brusque title… unless you’re the sort of person who enjoys doling out rejection or simply takes pride in your work, no matter what that work might mean.

It seems odd that the DOE would stand alone in its creation of a FOIA Denial Officer. So many government agencies are more than happy to reject request after request (and appeal after appeal), but none have been so brutally honest as to create a position solely for this purpose. The DOE’s system may actually be more streamlined than those at comparable agencies, but only the DOE has the strength of character to let requesters know that a fully and specifically trained expert is behind their request’s rejection.

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Unjust Enrichment:

July 12, 2017 § Leave a comment

Unjust Enrichment: An Alternative Cause of Action When There is Not a Written Contract Between the Parties

By: Jennifer Burt Tee

February 19, 2015

What if you did not enter into a written contract with another party, but you gave funds, services, or some other interest to the party and the other party fails to give you anything in return?  If there is no written contract between you and the other party, it may be difficult to prove that the other party breached the contract. However, you may be able to recover under the theory of unjust enrichment.

The theory of unjust enrichment is based on a contract implied in law. People ex rel. Hartigan v. E & E Hauling, Inc., 153 Ill. 2d 473, 497, 607 N.E. 2d 165, 177 (Ill. 1992). To prevail on the theory of unjust enrichment, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant has unjustly retained a benefit to the plaintiff’s detriment, and that defendant’s retention of the benefit violates the fundamental principles of justice, equity, and good conscience. HPI Care Services, Inc. v. Mt. Vernon Hospital, 131 Ill.2d 145, 160, 545 N.E.2d 672 (Ill. 1989). To recover under this theory, plaintiffs must show that defendant voluntarily accepted a benefit which would be inequitable for him to retain without payment. Id. (citing Premier Electrical Construction Co. v. La Salle National Bank, 132 Ill. App. 3d 485, 496, 477 N.E. 2d 1249).

“Because unjust enrichment is based on an implied contract, where there is a specific contract which governs the relationship of the parties, the doctrine of unjust enrichment has no application.”  Hartigan, 153 Ill.2d 497.  However, in a lawsuit, a plaintiff may plead unjust enrichment “in the alternative” to a breach of contract action.  One of the reasons that a plaintiff may plead unjust enrichment “in the alternative” is that if the contract is deemed unenforceable by the court, the plaintiff may then proceed on his cause of action of unjust enrichment in the absence of an enforceable contract between the parties.

https://www.lavellelaw.com/litigation/unjust-enrichment%3A-an-alternative-cause-of-action-when-there-is-not-a-written-contract-between-the-parties

http://blogs.lawyers.com/attorney/commercial-litigation/seventh-circuit-weighs-in-on-unjust-enrichment-debate-in-illinois-17792/

Thanks to the Illinois child welfare system.

July 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

Lawsuit Reveals Child Welfare’s Assault on Battered Mothers, Their Children

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richard wexlerFor a mother of two daughters in Will County, Illinois, known in legal papers as Kelly, the morning of May 1 began with her being thrown against a wall so hard she saw stars. When she looked up, she saw the man who did that to her — the father of her children — holding a gun and threatening to use it. Then the father took one of the children and fled. Kelly was terrified the father would hurt her child.

But, as is documented in a civil rights lawsuit filed by the Family Defense Center in Chicago, that was just the start of a nightmare that has not ended — thanks to the Illinois child welfare system.

Someone — Kelly doesn’t know who and probably never will — called the Illinois child abuse hotline. Even though the father is facing criminal charges and even though Kelly has primary legal custody of the children, caseworkers for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services apparently leaped to the conclusion that, somehow, all this was Kelly’s fault. They coerced her into letting them put both children with the alleged abuser’s parents. A private agency now oversees the case. The alleged abuser has liberal contact with his children while Kelly hasn’t had a visit with them for a month.

Meanwhile, caseworkers are forcing Kelly to jump through all the usual hoops, including a “mental health assessment” and “anger management.” (Remember, she’s not the one who threw someone against a wall, she’s not the one who pulled out a gun, and she’s not the one facing criminal charges.)

Then, according to the complaint, in what may be the single most candid statement ever uttered by a child welfare worker, a caseworker for the private agency explained how the system really works: The case, she explained, is a “maze.” Like mice in a cruel lab experiment, both parents are at the “beginning of the maze.” The children are at “the end of the maze.” She then said that “whichever parent finished his or her services first” wins — that is, he or she would get the children.

By now some may be wondering “where are the courts — aren’t they supposed to approve all this?” But child welfare agencies have ways around pesky nuisances like due process of law. In this case, they effectively blackmailed Kelly into giving up what few rights she had. They told her that unless she agreed to a so-called “safety plan” in which the children were placed “voluntarily” with the abuser’s parents, she’d have no contact of any kind with her children.

There is nothing to suggest this case is unusual. In an almost identical case last year, Illinois reached a settlement agreement to curb the abuse of “safety plans.” They violated the agreement and have yet to adopt the policies they promised to follow.

And Illinois is not alone in blaming mothers for being beaten.

In Utah, a legislative audit report found that children “witnessing domestic violence” is the single largest category for so-called “substantiated” maltreatment.

In New York City the practice of tearing children from their mothers just because the mothers had been beaten was largely ended only after a settlement that followed a federal judge’s scathing 183-page decision in a class-action lawsuit. (My organization’s vice president was co-counsel for the plaintiffs.)

As the decision explains, the lead plaintiff in that case, Sharwline Nicholson was beaten mercilessly by a boyfriend when she decided to break off the relationship.

But even as she was bleeding profusely, suffering from a broken arm, broken ribs and gashes to her head, as she called 911 and waited for an ambulance to take her to a hospital, she arranged for a neighbor to care for her children.

But that wasn’t enough for the city’s child protective services agency. As Nicholson lay in her hospital bed, CPS took the children from the babysitter and threw them into foster care with strangers — where one of the children was abused. Nicholson was charged with “engaging in domestic violence” — presumably by throwing her body into her abuser’s fists.

“It reached the point where I said ‘Oh, why did I call 911,’” Nicholson said.

Cases like this keep happening because of the child welfare system’s penchant for embracing fads — and for always blaming parents, especially mothers, for anything that happens to children.

So a study reports the obvious: Witnessing domestic violence can be emotionally harmful to children. Instead of embracing the obvious solution — arrest the batterer and put him in jail — child protective services rushes to blame the victim — and tear apart the family.

As usually happens when child protective services takes a swing at “bad mothers,” the blow lands on the children. As a succession of experts testified in the Nicholson case, while witnessing domestic violence may indeed be harmful to children, tearing those children from the victim of that violence is far, far worse. One expert called it “tantamount to pouring salt into an open wound.”

Fortunately, the New York City child welfare agency has largely abided by the settlement. And the New York State Court of Appeals effectively extended it statewide.

But that leaves 49 states where battered mothers have to think twice about seeking help — because of what the “helpers” might do to their children. That’s 49 states, where practice in these kinds of cases can boil down to “please pass the salt.”

Richard Wexler is executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.

Unjust Enrichment

July 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

Unjust Enrichment: An Alternative Cause of Action When There is Not a Written Contract Between the Parties

By: Jennifer Burt Tee

February 19, 2015

What if you did not enter into a written contract with another party, but you gave funds, services, or some other interest to the party and the other party fails to give you anything in return?  If there is no written contract between you and the other party, it may be difficult to prove that the other party breached the contract. However, you may be able to recover under the theory of unjust enrichment.

The theory of unjust enrichment is based on a contract implied in law. People ex rel. Hartigan v. E & E Hauling, Inc., 153 Ill. 2d 473, 497, 607 N.E. 2d 165, 177 (Ill. 1992). To prevail on the theory of unjust enrichment, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant has unjustly retained a benefit to the plaintiff’s detriment, and that defendant’s retention of the benefit violates the fundamental principles of justice, equity, and good conscience. HPI Care Services, Inc. v. Mt. Vernon Hospital, 131 Ill.2d 145, 160, 545 N.E.2d 672 (Ill. 1989). To recover under this theory, plaintiffs must show that defendant voluntarily accepted a benefit which would be inequitable for him to retain without payment. Id. (citing Premier Electrical Construction Co. v. La Salle National Bank, 132 Ill. App. 3d 485, 496, 477 N.E. 2d 1249).

“Because unjust enrichment is based on an implied contract, where there is a specific contract which governs the relationship of the parties, the doctrine of unjust enrichment has no application.”  Hartigan, 153 Ill.2d 497.  However, in a lawsuit, a plaintiff may plead unjust enrichment “in the alternative” to a breach of contract action.  One of the reasons that a plaintiff may plead unjust enrichment “in the alternative” is that if the contract is deemed unenforceable by the court, the plaintiff may then proceed on his cause of action of unjust enrichment in the absence of an enforceable contract between the parties.

https://www.lavellelaw.com/litigation/unjust-enrichment%3A-an-alternative-cause-of-action-when-there-is-not-a-written-contract-between-the-parties

http://blogs.lawyers.com/attorney/commercial-litigation/seventh-circuit-weighs-in-on-unjust-enrichment-debate-in-illinois-17792/

Judicial Watch

July 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

Judicial Watch Sues Veterans Affairs Police, Other VA Officials for Violating Protester’s Constitutional Rights –  Judicial Watch announced that it sued several Veterans Affairs police officers and VA officials in connection with violations of the constitutional rights of Robert L. Rosebrock, a 75-year old Vietnam era veteran, who for nearly…Read More

Media Ignores Virginia Gov. McAuliffe’s Role in Green Car Scandal that Fleeced Taxpayers out of Millions – An electric car company that folded after taking millions of taxpayer dollars was founded by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and former Democratic National Committee…Read More

Phoenix PD Bans Officers from Asking About Immigration Status, Calling Feds in Violation of State Law – Police officials in Arizona’s largest city have quietly implemented a new policy banning officers from contacting the feds after arresting an illegal alien and forbidding them from asking about immigration status, in violation of key provisions of…Read More

Dem Fla. Senator Helps Pass Bill to Give Her Charity $1.5 Mil, GOP Gov. Approves it – A Democrat Florida state lawmaker helped pass a bill that allocated $1.5 million to a nonprofit that she founded and pays her a six-figure salary and the state’s Republican governor approved it. The legislator, state Senator Lauren Book, represents south Florida’s Broward…Read More 

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Legally Kidnapped

July 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

Legally Kidnapped


Teenage Girl Alleges Sexual Assault At Hyderabad Orphanage

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 03:14 PM PDT

The Class 9 student at the orphanage told her teachers that in the early hours of the morning, he would call her to his room and abuse her.

More >> Teenage Girl Alleges Sexual Assault At Hyderabad Orphanage

Massive lawsuit filed on behalf of Indigenous children torn from their homes

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 03:10 PM PDT

Indigenous children were subjected to a decades-long federal-government policy that saw them torn from their homes and placed with non-Aboriginal families, a class-action lawsuit claims.

More >> Massive lawsuit filed on behalf of Indigenous children torn from their homes

Georgia adoptive mom wanted on child abuse charges

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 03:07 PM PDT

Authorities are searching for a mother accused of abusing her adopted children.

More >> Georgia adoptive mom wanted on child abuse charges

Former ward of state disappointed by government no show

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 03:05 PM PDT

A petition calling for a public inquiry and an apology was presented to parliament today by former wards of the state.  As children some were victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse and mental abuse whilst in state care here in New Zealand.

more >> Former ward of state disappointed by government no show

Foster father sentenced to 10 years RI for sexually abusing minor daughter

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 03:02 PM PDT

A lower court today sentenced a foster father to undergo 10-year RI for sexually assaulting his 7-year-old daughter.Adjudicating a case occurred three years back Balasore Additional District judge Ajanta Sarangi awarded the accused 10 years RI and fine of Rs 5,000 today.According to prosecution, Jaga Hembram of Govindpur village under Khaira Police Station on April 28 , 2014 took his 7 year daughter to nearby Palasa forest and sexually assaulted her. The girl narrated her ordeals to her mother after she returned home. Jaga was arrested after his wife lodged a complainant with the police.

More >> Foster father sentenced to 10 years RI for sexually abusing minor daughter

Couple charged with abuse after toddler foster child found malnourished

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 02:57 PM PDT

Garren Dodd McDonald, 48, and Shelley Lanette McDonald, 43, were arrested June 28, the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday. The Collinsville couple is charged with one count each of child abuse.

More >> Couple charged with abuse after toddler foster child found malnourished

Children in Foster Care in NC Surpasses 11,000, Children’s Home Society Intensifies Response

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 02:52 PM PDT

In May 2017, a steadily rising number of children in foster care broke the 11,000 mark, the highest level in 10 years and a nearly 28 percent increase over the last five years.

More >> Children in Foster Care in NC Surpasses 11,000, Children’s Home Society Intensifies Response

Connecticut DCF still isn’t meeting children’s needs, says court monitor

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 02:55 PM PDT

Caseloads are growing and children’s needs aren’t being met, according to the federal court monitor overseeing the Department of Children and Families.

more >> Connecticut DCF still isn’t meeting children’s needs, says court monitor

Court Orders Resentencing in Military Child Abuse Case

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 02:37 PM PDT

A federal appeals court has ordered a new sentencing for a former Army major and his wife convicted of multiple counts of child endangerment, after prosecutors argued their initial sentences were too lenient.

More >> Court Orders Resentencing in Military Child Abuse Case

Boy (2) in state’s care dies after drowning in poo

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 02:34 PM PDT

Jody Herring agrees to accept plea deal for 4 killings

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 01:59 PM PDT

9th Circuit: Detained Immigrant Children Entitled to Court Hearing

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 02:59 PM PDT

Children detained by immigration authorities have the right to a hearing before an immigration judge to consider their release, according to a federal appeals court in San Francisco.

More >> 9th Circuit: Detained Immigrant Children Entitled to Court Hearing

200th home for a former foster youth

Posted: 09 Jul 2017 01:48 PM PDT

A woman once in foster care is spending this 4th of July in her new dream home.
It’s Loren Elam’s first apartment and thanks to the non-profit  A Sense of Home  it is decorated from top to bottom and a home to envy.

More >> 200th home for a former foster youth