About the Brechner Center

"The Brechner Center is an invaluable, hands-on resource not only for working journalists -- but for future journalists, as well. For my journalism courses at the University of Miami, I copy large sections of Brechner's A Citizen's Guide to Government in the Sunshine for students, and heavily cite the Guide's contents while lecturing on the importance of Florida's Public Records Law."

Ronnie Greene,
Veteran investigative reporter & Urban Affairs Editor, The Miami Herald
Adjunct Professor of Journalism, University of Miami

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

The Freedom of Information Act

1. What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?

2. Is there any way to speed up the FOIA request process?

3. How can I find out how my state legislators voted on Freedom of Information issues?


1. What is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
In 1966, Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to increase public access to federal government documents. The FOIA generally applies to documents that serve the function of public records and can be reproduced. The FOIA does not apply to Congress, the White House, the federal courts or independent regulatory agencies.


• View a sample Freedom of Information request letter
• More resources relating to FOIA from the Society of Professional Journalists

The Justice Department's FOIA Reference Guide

Your Right To Federal Records, a joint publication of the Department of Justice and the U.S. General Services Administration

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2. Is there any way to speed up the FOIA request process?
According to the law, requests must be processed within 20 days. Agencies are now required to respond faster to FOIA requests in two situations. First, when failure to obtain records can pose an imminent threat to an individual’s life or physical safety. Second, and of particular interest to reporters, when a request is made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information, and there is an urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged federal government activity. According to the law, expedited access requests must be processed within 10 days.

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3. How can I find out how my state legislators voted on Freedom of Information issues?
Search the Brechner Center's 2007 Legislative Review for a county-by-county overview of Florida Senate and House bills involving freedom of information.