Hello FOIA Advisor,
I am not an attorney but consultant that helps retailers who are enrolled in SNAP (aka food stamps). A retailer based in New York received a USDA letter that accused the retailer of food stamp trafficking. I am side help ( the retailer signs and mails the documents) and helped the retailer request a FOIA:
I asked for all documents, photos, etc of the case write up. After five months (well after 20 days), they responded with documents but many were heavily redacted. So I did an administrative appeal within 90 days.
After 350 days (the retailer received the response a week ago), they responded again, denying my administrative appeal. Essentially using the sample language as before Exemption 5/7 etc.
Now this response indicated that I can file a judicial review. I looked at other FOIA websites and they seem to state we can do this ourselves and have provided very helpful templates which I plan to use. But, I have a number of questions that these websites don't address. I apologize for number of questions but this website seems to have professionals who can help me understand the process a little better.
1. Do I even need to go judicial? Can I just resubmit a new FOIA again to USDA FNS and restart the process?
2. If I appeal judicially, do I have six years to file with the District Court?
3. During that six years, does USDS FNS have to wait for me to see if we will file a judicial FOIA appeal or are they allowed to continue with working on the case ?
4. If I decide to file a FOIA appeal judicially, this RCFP website suggest I do 1) a short term complaint and/or 2) a Motion for Vaughn Index. Do I need to do both 1 and 2? Can they be filed at the same time? Which takes less time for the government to complete?
5. Can I file by mail? USDA FNS HQ is in DC. I'm assuming Wash DC District Court .Who do I address the envelope to? Any particular group within the court?
6. The US District Court says filing there cost $505. Dumb question: is this this true for FOIA appeals?
b) If I do 1 and 2 (from Question #4), are they separate fees for each? Who do I make the check out to?
c) Do I need to include a check when I request an appeal or can I pay later/ wait for a bill?
7. If I do a short term complaint. I will also include all the dated documentation USDA sent me. And I will include a prepaid postage return envelope. Anything else I'm missing?
8. If I do file a judicial appeal. For #1 and #2 (question 4), do I need to reference the FOIA tracking # ? The sample FOIA complaint appeal and Motion for Vaughn Index templates from other websites don't include any FOIA tracking # in their response.
I think this is all for now. Again, I apologies for so many questions. I'm very grateful for any help you can give me.
Thank you for your time.