Friday, June 24, 2011

Privacy preserving FOIA lawsuits

Several weeks ago, after an extremely successful online fundraising effort to cover the costs, I filed a FOIA complaint in Washington, DC Federal District Court.

Before filing the complaint, I looked through the court website and paid particular attention to a document posted there, titled Information for Parties Who Wish to File a Civil Complaint (pdf), which states:
The name of this Court must be written at the top of the first page [of the complaint]. The complete name and address for each plaintiff must be included in the caption of the complaint. A Post Office Box is insufficient as an address, unless you file a separate motion asking the Court to permit such an address.
Since moving to Washington DC, I've tried to keep my residential address out of databases, primarily by using a PO Box for everything possible. As such, I wasn't too keen on my home address showing up in a public court docket. Following the guidance given by the court, I put my PO box address on my FOIA complaint and filed an accompanying Motion To Include PO Box Address on Complaint.

Two weeks later, I called the court clerk to find out the status of the case, I was told that my motion had been rejected and that the my complaint and all the accompanying documents had been sent back to me.

The clerk didn't actually tell me the reason why the motion had been rejected, and so as soon as I returned to DC, I refiled the complaint with my home address, which was promptly docketed by the clerk.

Several days later, an envelope from the clerk arrived in the mail, which included a copy of the motion that I had filed. Written on it was a note by Judge Royce Lamberth, informing me that my motion was denied, but that the court would reconsider it if I provided my residence address to be filed under seal for the court and defendants.

This news came too late for me -- my home address is now in the DC court docket (something I am still rather upset about), but perhaps this information will be useful to others.

Motion for Po Box Denied