The Zoghlin Group is proud to have a strong track record of bringing claims on behalf of clients related to government accountability. As Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” From services related to Freedom of Information requests and the Open Meetings Law to commencing special proceedings against local governments, county governments, state and federal agencies and beyond.
New York’s Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) law aims to promote confidence in government by making non-private agency records accessible to the public.
As local reporting declines and the Internet shifts attention away from local concerns and towards national and global issues, the internal operations of state and local governments have become less transparent. Now more than ever, FOIL offers an important tool for individuals, groups, and businesses to gain access to government records, promote transparency, and provide a check on local power. Likewise, the federal Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) grants public access to federal government records, subject to specific exceptions.
FOIL requires state and municipal agencies to maintain records, and grants the public rights to review and copy those records. It also establishes an administrative appeal processes to deal with agency denials of requests for records.
When administrative appeals are denied, members of the public can bring a lawsuit to compel disclosure of government records. State law gives courts the authority to award attorneys’ fees to a plaintiff who successfully brings a court action to force disclosure of withheld records.
Whereas the press and those concerned with government oversight sometimes use FOIL/FOIA to make information public, others use it to obtain evidence in anticipation of litigation, to stay informed about projects that may affect them, or simply to monitor what government agencies are up to.
The Zoghlin Group offers are range of FOIL/FOIA related services for those seeking access to agency records, including:
Seeking court orders awarding attorneys fees to successful plaintiffs.
Reverse FOIL Services:
Under certain circumstances, where government disclosure would be inappropriate or harmful, we can also help businesses or individuals oppose agency disclosure of requested records, including records containing trade secrets, private materials, or other information protected by state or federal law. These “reverse FOIL” matters often arise when a business is required to disclose certain information to a government entity, and where a third-party attempts to use FOIL to compel the government to disclose that information. In situations such as these, the Zoghlin Group offers the following services:
We provide FOIL/FOIA related services on an hourly basis and, under certain circumstances, on a flat-fee basis.
Additional information about FOIL is maintained on a New York State website, and is available at: href=“https://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/Right_to_know.html#foil and https://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/pdfs/right2know.pdf
-Benjamin Wisniewski, Esq. quoted in FOIL The Law and Future of Public Information in New York (Brett Orzechowski, Syracuse University Press 2018)
The Open Meetings Law aims to promote confidence in government decision-making ensuring that public business is conducted in an “open and public manner.” The law is based on the premise that democratic societies require, for their proper maintenance and functioning, access to public bodies and their decision-making processes. As Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”
With today’s 24-hour news cycle, local governments and politicians have become increasingly concerned that a comment or action will be misinterpreted or taken out of context. Unfortunately, this perception incentivizes those in power to conduct public business behind closed doors, essentially preventing the public from overseeing and observing the conduct of public business.
The Open Meetings Law gives the public the right to attend and observe the meetings of public bodies, with limited exceptions. It also imposes notice requirements on public bodies, and gives the public the right to review materials that are scheduled to be discussed or voted on at the meetings of a public body.
Whereas the press and those concerned with government oversight sometimes rely on the Open Meetings Law to gain access to meetings in order to make information public, others use it to obtain evidence in anticipation of litigation, stay informed about projects that may affect them, or simply to monitor what local municipalities, boards, and other public bodies are up to.
The Zoghlin Group offers are range of services related to New York’s Open Meetings Law for municipalities, individuals, businesses, and citizen groups.
Individuals, Businesses, And Citizen Groups:
When appropriate, we assist clients in commencing legal actions government actors to hold those actors accountable. This may include:
For more information about our Government Accountability practice group, or for inquiries related to these practice areas, please contact Bridget O’Toole, Jacob H. Zoghlin, Mindy L. Zoghlin, or Benjamin Wisniewski.