CREW and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) agreed to dismiss the case against the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) based on HUD’s agreement to (1) provide all HUD FOIA personnel additional training about fee waivers; (2) develop and update agency specific guidance on fee waivers; and (3) update is fee waiver guidance on its website so requesters better understand the showing they need to make to receive a fee waiver. Additionally, HUD agreed to pay a portion of CREW’s and FFRF’s attorneys’ fees. Read the full stipulation of dismissal below.

On January 18, 2018, CREW and Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a lawsuit against HUD under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552, and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, for injunctive, declaratory, and other appropriate relief.

After the release of a New York Magazine article entitled “Is Anybody Home at HUD”, CREW sent a FOIA to HUD’s Freedom of Information Act Office on August 25, 2017, seeking four categories of records. CREW requested that it not be charged search or review fees because CREW qualifies as a member of the news media. CREW explained the various ways it routinely disseminates information to the public, including its extensively viewed website on which CREW posts documents it receives under the FOIA, blog posts, and reports.

On August 31, 2017, HUD advised CREW that its request for a fee waiver was denied. HUD offered no rationale for denying the requested fee waiver or analysis of the reasons CREW provided to support its request. Instead, the letter offered the summary conclusion that CREW’s request for a fee waiver “is not in the ‘public interest’ as required by statute and is therefore denied.”

Following this denial, and a subsequent appeal of that denial, CREW submitted another FOIA request to HUD seeking two categories of records concerning authorization for and the costs of Secretary Carson’s use of non-commercial aircraft for any official travel  on September 20, 2017. CREW again requested a fee waiver because of its status as a member of news media, and again, HUD advised CREW that its request for a waiver of fees was denied, using language identical to what it used to initially deny CREW a fee waiver in its August 25 FOIA.

Freedom From Religion Foundation has also had similar experience with HUD.

Therefore, this case seeks declaratory relief that HUD is in violation of the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(A), and implementing HUD regulations, 24 C.F.R. § 15.110(h), for repeatedly failing to grant requests from CREW, FFRF, and other non-profit, public interest organizations for fee waivers despite their showings that the subjects of their requests concern the operations of the federal government and the requested disclosures will likely contribute to a better understanding of relevant government procedures by plaintiffs and the general public. This case also seeks injunctive relief to compel HUD’s compliance with the FOIA’s fee waiver provisions and HUD’s implementing regulations. CREW further challenges HUD’s failure to recognize it as a news media requester for purposes of waiving fees under the FOIA.

Lawsuit Documents

  • January 18, 2018
  • March 29, 2018
  • Supporting Memorandum for Defendant's Motion to Dismiss - Mar. 29. 2018
  • March 29, 2018
  • Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss - April 30, 2018
  • Exhibits A- G - Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss - April 30, 2018
  • Defendant's Reply Memorandum In Support of Motion to Dismiss - May 23, 2018
  • Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Sur-reply to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss - Oct. 12, 2018
  • October 12, 2018
  • Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave - October 24, 2018
  • March 5, 2019
  • Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss - Mar. 22, 2019
  • April 23, 2019
  • November 25, 2019
  • April 21, 2020

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