§ 51-8.5 Timing of Responses to Requests.  

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  • (a) In general. (1) The Committee ordinarily will respond to requests according to their order of receipt. The time limits prescribed in the FOIA will begin only after the Committee identifies a request as being made under the FOIA and deemed received by the Committee.

    (2) An initial determination whether, and to what extent, to grant each request for records or a fee waiver shall be made within 10 business days after receipt of that request. The requester shall be notified as soon as the determination is made.

    (3) When a requester complies with the procedures established in this part for obtaining records under the FOIA, the request shall receive prompt attention, and a response will be made within 20 business days.

    (b) Unusual circumstances. Whenever the Committee cannot meet the statutory time limit for processing a request because of “unusual circumstances,” as defined in the FOIA, and the Committee extends the time limit on that basis, the Committee shall, before expiration of the 20-day period to respond, notify the requester in writing of the unusual circumstances involved and of the date by which processing of the request can be expected to be completed. Where the extension exceeds 10 working days, the Committee will, as described by the FOIA, provide the requester with an opportunity to modify the request or arrange an alternative time period for processing the original or modified request. The Committee shall make available its FOIA office and its FOIA Public Liaison for this purpose. The agency must also alert requesters to the availability of the Office of Government Information Services to provide dispute resolution services.

    (c) Aggregating requests. For the purposes of satisfying unusual circumstances under the FOIA, the Committee may aggregate requests in cases where it reasonably appears that multiple requests, submitted either by a requester or by a group of requesters acting in concert, constitute a single request that would otherwise involve unusual circumstances. The Committee shall not aggregate multiple requests that involve unrelated matters.

    (d) Multitrack processing. (1) The Committee may use two or more processing tracks by distinguishing between simple, complex, and expedited requests based on the amount of work and/or time needed to process a request or the number of pages involved. Expedited processing shall be in accordance with the standards set forth in paragraph (g) of this section. Among the factors a component may consider are the number of pages involved in processing the request and the need for consultations or referrals. The Committee shall advise requesters of the track into which their request falls and, when appropriate, shall offer the requesters an opportunity to narrow their request so that it can be placed in a different processing track.

    (e) Expedited processing. (1) Requests and appeals may be taken out of order and given expedited treatment whenever it is determined that they involve:

    (i) Circumstances in which the lack of expedited processing could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual;

    (ii) An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged Federal Government activity, if made by a person who is primarily engaged in disseminating information;

    (iii) The loss of substantial due process rights; or

    (iv) A matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity that affect public confidence.

    (2) A request for expedited processing may be made at any time. Requests based on paragraphs (e)(1)(i) through (iv) of this section must be submitted to the Committee's FOIA office.

    (3) A requester who seeks expedited processing must submit a statement, certified to be true and correct, explaining in detail the basis for making the request for expedited processing. For example, under paragraph (e)(1)(ii) of this section, a requester who is not a full-time member of the news media must establish that the requester is a person whose primary professional activity or occupation is information dissemination, though it need not be the requester's sole occupation. Such a requester also must establish a particular urgency to inform the public about the government activity involved in the request—one that extends beyond the public's right to know about government activity generally. The existence of numerous articles published on a given subject can be helpful in establishing the requirement that there be an “urgency to inform” the public on the topic. As a matter of administrative discretion, the Committee may waive the formal certification requirement.

    (4) The Committee shall notify the requester within 10 calendar days of the receipt of a request for expedited processing of its decision whether to grant or deny expedited processing. If expedited processing is granted, the request will be given priority and processed as soon as practicable. If a request for expedited processing is denied, any appeal of that decision shall be acted on expeditiously.