Judge Attendance at Events, Conferences, and Seminars

Peter Gehred filed this request with the George Mason University of Virginia.
Due June 27, 2017
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Response

Communications

From: MuckRock

Dear Dr. Zywicki:

Under the The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located § 2.2-3700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia, we are requesting access to attendance information for judges at the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School’s Law and Economics Center’s events, conferences, and seminars. Specifically we are seeking the following information:

1) Exact day, month, year, and conference for the judge’s attendance; 2) Syllabi for each conference; 3) Date of letter of judge’s application to the conferences.

We request that the information we seek be provided in electronic format, and I would like to receive it by e-mail, through a digital dropbox, or on a CD-ROM.

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.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.

From: Leslie A Loucks

Good Morning,
This is in response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by email dated May 3, 2017. The Code of Virginia limits the application of FOIA in §2.2-3704. A. to citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, representatives of newspapers and magazines with circulation in the Commonwealth, and representatives of radio and television stations broadcasting in or into the Commonwealth. As our primary obligation is to serve the good people of Virginia, we must respectfully decline your request.

[GMUGrn] Office of University Counsel
Leslie Loucks
Legal Assistant
George Mason University
4400 University Dr., MS2A3
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone: (703) 993-3575

From: George Mason University

Good morning Joseph,

I apologize, I had thought my substitutes had gotten back to you while I was away.

I received this response from the Law School when I asked about this request:
The LEC has been running programs at George Mason University since 1986. Prior to 2010, records were not even kept electronically. This would entail thousands of hours of work.

Therefore, if you would like to go forward with your cost as written, it will cost over $1,000. Because the cost estimate is over $200, I would require a deposit in the full amount of the estimate, pursuant to Virginia Code § 2.2-3704 (H), before proceeding with your request.

We did respond to a previous request (see attached request from this February) from ProPublica for a list of judges who attended events at the LEC as follows:

“For the years 2010 through 2016, there are 70 files (one for each event during that time at which the Center hosted state or federal judges), each with a complete list of the judges who attended the event, as well as the name and date of the event. The Center has not held a judges event in 2017, so there are no responsive documents for this year.
The Law & Economics Center informs me that their records are not very good for years prior to 2010, when there was a leadership change at the Center: there is a comprehensive list of all the judges who attended a Law & Economics Center event from 1976 through and including 2009. But this list does not specify which events the judges attended, and the Center does not have any records that would allow them to identify the attendance at specific events during that time period. In addition, please note that this list includes not only judges who attended programs sponsored and hosted by the Law & Economics Center, but also includes judges who participated in programs hosted by other organizations (such as a state bar association) where the Law & Economics Center sponsored and/or hosted only a small portion of the overall event – such as a workshop or panel presentation. The list does not distinguish between the two types of participation.”

Since we have already produced these records for ProPublica, we can send them to you without cost.

Please let me know if you would like to proceed with your request as written, in which case I will ask the Law School for a more detailed cost estimate, and/or if you would like to receive the ProPublica response without charge.

Regards,

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Woodley, J.D.
FOIA Compliance Officer
George Mason University
703-993-5115

From: MuckRock

Hello Elizabeth,

Thanks so much for your letter. I'm wondering whether you might be able to provide some clarification on this request, because the proposed estimate would seem to make complete fulfillment of this request cost prohibitive. Would you be able to provide a revised estimate to estimate provision of materials that are already electronically held? Could you also please give a sense of how the non-digitized materials are kept, and would it be possible to inspect them in-person before selecting which should be paid for and copied?

Thanks so much for your time and help.

From: Elizabeth I Woodley

Good morning Joseph,

I contacted the Law School again with your request for clarification and received the following information from the LEC:

The LEC has been able to arrange access to an old electronic archive of LEC documents that date back to the first judges program held after the LEC relocated to George Mason University in 1986. The most recent documents appear to be from 2007 or so. My preliminary search shows that we have records that include the name and dates of each program, a list of judges who attended each program, and a course outline or agenda for most of the programs. I estimate there are between 400 and 700 responsive documents, and that it’ll take one of my program assistants eight to twelve hours to pull copies of them, plus time for me to inspect the material to ensure all responsive documents have been produced.

There still appears to be a gap in our records from late 2007 through early 2010. If any responsive records from that time are contained in the electronic archive, we will produce them.

From the January and February 2017 FOIA requests, I have already gathered a large portion of the documents beginning in 2010 through 2017. (Since the last request, though, we have held three programs for judges, so responsive documents for those would have to be added to the compilation.) That said, the requester is asking for two additional bits of information that will have to be searched for and copied de novo: (1) information regarding the curriculum for each of the judicial programs and (2) the date on which every judge applied to attend each program. Producing responsive records regarding the curriculum won’t be terribly difficult. I would estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of ten to sixteen hours’ time. However, we do not have records of the application date for programs prior to February 2013. Applications for programs earlier than 2013 were generally made by completing and mailing in a postcard-size form or by telephone communication. None of those records appear to have been kept, as there didn’t seem to be any reason for doing so.

Beginning in 2013, we started using an online registration portal for judges programs. However, the date on which an application was submitted was not expressly stored, though it appears that it was captured by the software. To gather the information for the requestor, I will have to have a program assistant examine the electronic record of every judge who’s attended an LEC program since February 2013 and record the application dates individually. With approximately 2,150 records that have to be visually inspected, that could easily take 100 to 140 hours or more.

Regarding the question about non-digitized information: Nearly all the documents responsive to this request are available in digital format (Much of that work was completed in fulfillment of the January and February 2017 FOIA requests.) The only non-digitized records that may need to be searched would be physical copies of the program booklets for events held between 2010 and 2015. But even for those years, we have electronic copies of the syllabus or agenda for the majority of events.

In total, we’re looking at the following estimated number of hours to prepare all the documents responsive to this request:

• Responsive records for the period 1986 through 2007: 8 to 12 hours of a program assistant’s time at $30.79 per hour, and approximately 2 to 4 hours of my time at $108.05 per hour.
• Responsive records for the period 2010 through 2017 (excluding the date judges applied to attend each program): 10 to 16 hours of a program assistant’s time at $30.79 per hour, and approximately 4 to 6 hours of my time at $108.05 per hour.
• A record of the date on which judges applied to attend programs from February 2003 through 2017: at least 100 to 140 hours of a program assistant’s time at $30.79 per hour, and approximately 10 to 20 hours of my time at $108.05 per hour.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this information, and please let me know how you would like to proceed with this request.
Regards,

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Woodley, J.D.
FOIA Compliance Officer
George Mason University
703-993-5115

From: Peter Gehred

Hi Elizabeth,

Thank you for your thorough response.

Regarding these records: "• Responsive records for the period 1986 through 2007: 8 to 12 hours of a program assistant’s time at $30.79 per hour, and approximately 2 to 4 hours of my time at $108.05 per hour." We would like to provide the funds to supply these records. Once we have those records, we will have a better idea of how or whether we want to proceed on additional years.

Let us know how to arrange payment, and we look forward to working with you to obtain these records.

Best regards,
Peter

From: Elizabeth I Woodley

Hello Joseph,

Since the estimated cost of your revised request is over $200, we would require a deposit in the full amount of the lowest estimate if you would like us to continue to process your request. (Virginia Code § 2.2-3704 (H))

Therefore, if you would like Mason to respond to this portion your FOIA request, please send a check in the amount of $462.42 (the lowest estimate for the records you have requested) made out to George Mason University, to:

George Mason University
Attn. Elizabeth Woodley, MSN 2C2
4400 University Dr.
Fairfax, VA 22030

Once we receive your deposit, we will begin the FOIA response. If the response ends up costing greater or less than this amount, we will bill you or refund you the difference.

Please let me know if you have questions about this request or George Mason University’s process.
Regards,

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Woodley, J.D.
FOIA Compliance Officer
George Mason University
703-993-5115

From: MuckRock

Hello Ms. Woodley,

Thank you very much for your help. We are happy to provide the full deposit for the materials. However, due to matters of record keeping on our end, we're hoping that you could please provide an invoice addressed in the following manner:

Fondation Jean-Jacques Laffont
21 allée de Brienne
31015 Toulouse Cedex 6, France

It would be greatly appreciated. Once the official invoice is ready, I'll provide payment accordingly.

Thanks so much for your help.

From: Peter Gehred

To Clarify:
The invoice can easily be e-mailed to the following e-mail addresses:
Send the invoice to : Cynthia Diaz <cynthia.diaz@tse-fr.eu> or Celine Claustre <celine.claustre@tse-fr.eu>
And make sure to CC daniel.li.chen@gmail.com.

Thank you!

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