Adjacent news items from the Web site of The Coalition of Journalists for Open Government offer in ironic illustration of public-access hypocrisy by the U.S. Justice Department. First comes the good news: The Justice Department has directed all federal departments and agencies that have an FOIA backlog to post a plan by Nov. 1 for reducing the backlog over the next three years. Here is the DOJ memo.
But no sooner does DOJ tell other federal entities to come up with plans for improving public access than it takes steps to cut off public access. CJOG points to Marcia Coyle's Sept. 17 report in the National Law Journal that DOJ has asked the federal judiciary to eliminate public Internet access to plea agreements in criminal case files and all related docket notations. Presently, these are available through the judiciary's PACER system.
The judiciary is seeking public comment on DOJ's request. Comments must be filed by Oct. 26. If you oppose further restrictions on public access to government information, make your voice heard by filing a comment.