Voigt v. U.S. Department of Education

Topic(s): 
Government Transparency - FOIA
Documents:
Case Description: 

We represented Kate Voigt in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case against the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Ms. Voigt requested records related to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, including records regarding how ED determines whether certain non-profit organizations provide qualifying public services. ED claimed that it could not produce most of the requested records because they are held by its contractor, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority (PHEAA), doing business as FedLoan Servicing. Of the 200 pages of responsive material ED located, ED withheld 198 pages in their entirety pursuant to FOIA Exemption 5.

Ms. Voigt filed an administrative appeal challenging all aspects of ED’s failure to provide the records she requested, including the adequacy of ED’s search for responsive records, ED’s claim that 198 pages of responsive records are exempt from disclosure, and ED’s refusal to retrieve responsive records held by its contractor. ED never responded to the administrative appeal. On April 28, 2017, we filed a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking an injunction ordering ED to make the requested records available without delay.

Once we filed suit, ED agreed to produce the responsive records held by PHEAA and to rerelease—with substantially fewer redactions—the 198 pages of material it had previously withheld. During the course of this litigation, and pursuant to a series of scheduling orders, ED made three rolling productions of material totaling 5,297 pages.

On January 24, 2018, the parties settled the remaining issues and stipulated to dismissal of the case.