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PLN Sues Bureau of Prisons for Lawsuit Information

On September 12, 2005, Prison Legal News (PLN) filed suit in federal district court to overturn an agency ruling denying it access to documents held by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Washington, DC, appeals a ruling by the BOP denying PLN a fee waiver under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552. PLN requested BOP documents related to money the BOP paid for all lawsuits and claims between January 1, 1996, and July 31, 2003. The BOP demanded almost $7,000.00 to search for the documents, which it claims it does not have in any centralized location. PLN sought a fee waiver under § 552 4(a)(iii). PLN appealed to the Department of Justice which delayed a final ruling on PLN's fee waiver request for almost two years. The DOJ eventually denied PLN's request for a fee waiver, effectively denying PLN access to the information. The BOP first claimed there was no public interest in this type of information. The DOJ later claimed PLN lacked the ability to effectively disseminate the information.
According to Edward Elder, PLN's attorney at the DC law firm of Klimaski and Associates, These are public documents being requested by public-interest journalists recognized for their expertise in prison issues. They clearly qualify for a FOIA waiver."

BOP runs the largest prison system in the United States, with approximately 200,000 prisoners behind bars. Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, stated, This lawsuit is an important step towards government accountability and determining how well managed our nation's federal prisons are. As tax payers, we should be concerned with how well, or poorly, the federal Bureau of Prisons is spending its multi-billion dollar budget.

Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment and are currently awaiting a ruling from district court judge Reggie Walton. PLN will report the outcome of the case. See: Prison Legal News v. Lappin, US DC, D DC, Case No. 05-1812 (RBW).

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Related legal case

Prison Legal News v. Lappin

The complaint in the case are available in the briefbank.