The Law of Open Government: Litigation Under the Freedom of Information Act (FIELDWORK PRACTICUM)
J.D. Practicum 1070
| 4 credit hours
In fieldwork practicum courses, students participate in weekly seminars and conduct related fieldwork at outside organizations. This practicum course will focus on government transparency law and practical litigation skills. Students will participate in a two hour/week seminar and also undertake 10 hours/week of fieldwork at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
SEMINAR: In the seminar, students will be given (1) an overview of the federal open government law; (2) training in how to request information from government agencies; (3) experience in filing lawsuits and drafting legal motions in D.C. District and Circuit court Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) cases; (4) practical tips and strategies to become an effective litigator; and (5) training in how to file comments on proposed agency regulations. Topics to be covered include the history of the FOIA, understanding the FOIA (key terms, the exemptions, statutory time limits), perfecting the request and identifying the appropriate agency, understanding agency FOIA regulations, the standard for expedition and the public interest standard, the “Glomar” problem, requester strategies, the role of the media, fee determinations, and fee recovery. Students will also learn basic litigation skills, such as how to file a complaint, how to draft motions for summary judgment and reply motions, how to file administrative comments, and how to select and pursue a litigation strategy. Guest lectures will include local practitioners pursuing significant FOIA cases.
FIELDWORK: Students will work for 10 hours/week with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, on whose behalf they will draft, submit, and pursue a well-researched and well-crafted Freedom of Information Act request. To make this possible, students will be expected to complete several written assignments, including (1) a case memo describing the FOIA request the student is interested in pursuing, (2) a FOIA request to a government agency, (3) an Administrative Appeal that responds to the response (or lack thereof) received from the agency; and (4) other written work product. EPIC also has two FOIA cases on appeal to the D.C. Circuit this year that will provide additional opportunities for students.
Prerequisites: J.D. students must complete the required first-year program prior to enrolling in this course (part-time and interdivisional transfer students may enroll prior to completing Criminal Justice, Property, or their first-year elective).
Students may not concurrently enroll in this practicum course and an externship or a clinic or another practicum course.
This practicum course is open to LL.M. students, space permitting. Interested LL.M. students should email Louis Fine (email@example.com) to request admission.
This course is suitable for evening students who can attend the weekly seminar and conduct 10 hours of fieldwork/week during normal business hours.
This is a 4 credit course. Two credits will be awarded for the two-hour weekly seminar and two credits for approximately 10 hours of fieldwork per week, for a minimum of 11 weeks. The fieldwork work must be completed during normal business hours. The two-credit seminar portion of this practicum will be graded. The two credits of fieldwork are mandatory pass/fail. Students will be allowed to take another course pass/fail in the same semester as this practicum.
Students who enroll in this course will be automatically enrolled in both the seminar and fieldwork components and may not take either component separately. After Add/Drop, a student who wishes to withdraw from a practicum course must obtain permission from the faculty member and the Assistant Dean for Experiential Education. The Assistant Dean will grant such withdrawal requests only when remaining enrolled in the practicum would cause significant hardship for the student. A student who is granted permission to withdraw will be withdrawn from both the seminar and fieldwork components.
Default attendance rule for all practicum courses (unless the professor indicates otherwise): Regular and punctual attendance is required at all practicum seminars and fieldwork placements. Students in project-based practicum courses are similarly required to devote the requisite number of hours to their project. If a student must miss seminar, fieldwork, or project work, he or she must speak to the professor as soon as possible to discuss the absence. Unless the professor indicates otherwise, a student with more than one unexcused absence from the practicum seminar (out of 13 total seminar sessions), or one week of unexcused absences from the fieldwork or project work (out of a total of 11 weeks of fieldwork or project work), may receive a lower grade or, at the professor’s discretion, may be withdrawn from the practicum course.
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