Communications regarding Sessions speech

Brandon Smith filed this request with the Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General of the United States of America.
Tracking #

DOJ-2017-005419 and DOJ-2017-005420

Est. Completion None
Status
Partially Completed

Communications

From: Brandon Smith

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

Any and all communications between Jeffrey Sessions, his personal staff, or Department of Justice staff, and members of Alliance Defending Freedom that are related to Sessions' appearance speaking to the group on July 11, 2017. There is no date range on this request, as the responding FOIA officers will have to determine what is 1. the complete record of the above part of the request, and 2. the first and last communication about the meeting by any of the people mentioned. I wish the searches to be performed up to the date that your office takes receipt of this request.

I also wish the personal accounts of people that may have been communicating about this meeting to be searched for the above two categories of records, pursuant to the FOIA. I maintain that this engagement was state business; that Mr. Sessions was acting in his official capacity; and that the FOIA applies to records about the engagement for these reasons.

For context about the engagement and the public records at issue, please see the news story whose URL follows. (Though please do not construe my request to be equivalent to any other journalists' request. I require all parts of my request to be filled in full.)

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/jeff-sessions-addresses-anti-lgbt-hate-group-doj/story?id=48593488

We request that this FOIA request be granted expedited treatment because the information contained within the documents at issue is substantially in the public interest and because the public has an urgent need to know about actual or alleged government activity, in this case, the Attorney General's speech to a group long assigned status as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. For the public affected by Mr. Sessions' positions on issues--a very large swath of public indeed--what Mr. Sessions says to special interest groups about his positions (interpretations of laws and so forth) provides insight into past and future policy decisions he may make. For example, individuals' standing in court likely depends on certain positions held by Mr. Sessions. For your information, we have permission to publish an article based on documents we would receive from this FOIA request at the Washington Post.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to our request for expedited processing within 10 business days, as the statute requires, and otherwise, for the request as a whole, within 20 business days.

Sincerely,

Brandon Smith and Sydney Combs

From: OIP-NoReply@usdoj.gov

This message is to confirm your request submission to the FOIAonline application: View Request. Request information is as follows: (https://foiaonline.regulations.gov:443/foia/action/public/view/request?objectId=090004d28143babd)
* Tracking Number: DOJ-2017-005420
* Requester Name: Brandon Smith
* Date Submitted: 07/17/2017
* Request Status: Submitted
* Description: foia request - seek expedition

From: OIP-NoReply@usdoj.gov

This message is to confirm your request submission to the FOIAonline application: View Request. Request information is as follows: (https://foiaonline.regulations.gov:443/foia/action/public/view/request?objectId=090004d28143ba9d)
* Tracking Number: DOJ-2017-005419
* Requester Name: Brandon Smith
* Date Submitted: 07/17/2017
* Request Status: Submitted
* Description: foia request - seek expedition

From: OIP-NoReply

Good Afternoon,

Attached is this Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy acknowledgment of the above-referenced FOIA requests.

Thank you,
-----------------------------------------
Initial Request Staff
Office of Information Policy
U.S. Department of Justice

202-514-3642 (Main Line)
202-514-1009 (Fax)

From: OIP-NoReply

Good Afternoon,

Attached is this Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy acknowledgment of the above-referenced FOIA requests.

Thank you,
-----------------------------------------
Initial Request Staff
Office of Information Policy
U.S. Department of Justice

202-514-3642 (Main Line)
202-514-1009 (Fax)

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General

Good morning Mr. Smith and Ms. Combs,

This is regarding your inquiry dated March 28, 2018 pertaining to your FOIA request referenced above. I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiry, but I have just received it today. Regarding your request, the search is still pending due to our significant backlog of requests. Accordingly, I am unable to provide you with an estimated date of response with any accuracy, but I would be happy to answer any questions you have regarding the processing of this request. Please feel free to call my direct line below.

Thank you for your time,

Eric Hotchkiss
Government Information Specialist
Office of Information Policy
202-616-5456

From: Brandon Smith

Dear Eric,

As you might be able to see in our original message dated July 13, 2017, we wrote the DOJ last July, not March 28, 2018. If you do not have a copy of that message, please let us know, as we will copy it in a new message to you. Am I to understand that all FOIA requests sent to the office of the Attorney General are received roughly nine months following their (virtual) postmark? I'm happy to FOIA for that data. We anticipate your complete response to our original request post haste.

Sincerely,
Brandon Smith and Sydney Combs

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General

Mr. Smith and Ms. Combs,

You misunderstand my email of yesterday. This Office is in receipt of your request dated July 13, 2017, and received in this Office on July 17, 2017, as stated in our acknowledgement letter dated July 27, 2017. My email of yesterday was a response to your status update inquiry dated March 28, 2018 and received in this Office via fax that same day. I have attached that correspondence for your reference. I am the analyst who has been assigned to process your original request; I did not personally receive your March 28, 2018 correspondence until yesterday. I hope this clears up any confusion regarding my email of yesterday. Again, please don't hesitate to call my direct number below with any questions. I find that requesters who call come away with a greater understanding of the sometimes frustrating FOIA process.

Thanks again for your time,

Eric Hotchkiss
Government Information Specialist
Office of Information Policy
202-616-5456

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General

Good morning Mr. Smith and Ms. Combs,

Attached is an email chain dated April 17, 2018 which includes our emails dated April 16, 2018 regarding the same question. I apologize that I did not include both email addresses associated with your request in my email of April 17, 2018. I invite you to call my direct line (202-616-5456) so that I can more fulsomely explain the status of your request; I believe our miscommunication stems from the limitations of email. In short, the search is still pending. This delay is due to our significant backlog of requests. I would be happy to explain our search process as well as answer any questions you may have regarding our FOIA process in general.

Regarding an estimated date of completion, because the search is still pending for your request I cannot answer with any accuracy. Using averages from our FY17 annual report (available here: https://www.justice.gov/oip/page/file/1024611/download), the average completion time for a complex request (your request's current track) is 331.66 days for requests in the Office of the Attorney General and 352.93 days for the Office of Public Affairs. These are the two Offices for which your request is being processed. Absent any information regarding the volume of material that is responsive to your request I cannot provide a more accurate estimate.

Regarding your request to be placed in the expedited track, your request for expedited processing was denied via our acknowledgement letter dated July 27, 2017 which you reference. Information on submitting an administrative appeal of that denial is contained in the last paragraph of that letter.

Again, I please ask that you call as I find those who do call come away with a much better understanding of what goes into responding to their FOIA request. I pride myself in taking the time to ensure that you understand everything that your request entails.

Thanks again for your time,

Eric Hotchkiss
Government Information Specialist
Office of Information Policy
202-616-5456

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General

Attached is this Office's response to the above-referenced request.

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General

Attached is this Office's response to the above-referenced request.

From: Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General

Good morning,

The attached interim response was sent out last week while I was out of the Office. Given our past miscommunications regarding your requests I wanted to make sure that you both received this response so I am sending again. Please disregard if you've already received it.

Thanks again!

Eric Hotchkiss
Government Information Specialist
Office of Information Policy
202-616-5456

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