Howell v. DOJ

Government Transparency - FOIA
Case Description: 

Public Citizen represented a prisoner seeking to obtain a copy of his pre-sentence investigation report (PSR) under FOIA. The government conceded that plaintiff's PSR was subject to disclosure under FOIA, and the government did not invoke any FOIA exemption to justify its refusal to produce the document for copying and retnetion by the priosner. Instead, the government claimed that it satisfied FOIA by allowing plaintiff to see his PSR from time to time under procedures that explicitly forbid plaintiff from "obtaining or possessing" a copy of his PSR. We contended that FOIA entitles requesters to obtain copies of responsive documents that are not exempt from disclosure.

The district court ruled for the government, relying on an intervening decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit holding that "FOIA does not entitle [a prisoner] to have copies of his PSRs," where he "was afforded a meaningful opportunity to review his PSRs and to take notes on them."