Legal Services Corporation
Legal Services Corporation (LSC or Corporation) is a private, non-partisan, non-profit corporation established by Congress to seek to ensure equal access to justice for all Americans by providing civil legal assistance to those who otherwise would be unable to afford it. LSC was created in 1974 with bipartisan congressional sponsorship and the support of the Nixon Administration, and is funded through congressional appropriation.
LSC is headed by an 11-member Board of Directors appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. By law, the Board is bipartisan: no more than six members may be of the same political party. LSC does not provide services directly. Rather, it provides grants to independent local programs chosen through a system of competition. Together they serve every county and congressional district in the nation, as well as the U.S. territories. For more information on LSC, please see The Legal Services Corporation Act as amended in 1977, Pub. L. Nos. 93-355 and 95-222.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
President Johnson signed the FOIA bill on the Fourth of July, 1966. Since then, Congress has amended the FOIA three times: 1974, 1986, and most recently, in 1996. The FOIA refers to “agencies” but applies to the Corporation by design: when Congress chartered LSC, they specifically declared that “[t]he Corporation and its officers and employees shall be subject to the provisions of section 552 of title 5, United States Code (relating to freedom of information).” 42 U.S.C. §2996d(g).
The FOIA's roots lie in the democratic notion that government derives its power from the citizenry and must, therefore, answer to the public. Ideally, the FOIA serves as a check on governmental and political power, creating greater accountability. It also empowers the public, enabling more informed political decision-making.
The act institutionalized mechanisms by which the public can monitor government activities; these range from document publication, to individual query responses. Prior to the FOIA, government records were not readily available to the public. A citizen had to show particular need for documents in order to have access to them. Under the FOIA the presumption is reversed; executive documents are essentially public property. An agency can withhold information only if it can demonstrate how the materials fit one of nine categories of exemptions (listed in 5 U.S.C. §552(b) and 45 C.F.R. §1602.9). Additionally, the FOIA carved out avenues of appeal, providing recourse when a member of the public feels that he or she has been wrongly denied access.
LSC performs three types of information dissemination under the FOIA. The table below explains what universe of records is available via each mechanism.
Type 1: Publishing in the Federal Register (45 C.F.R. §1602.4)
If you seek information regarding:
Type 2: Public Reading Room Records (45 C.F.R. §§1602.5; 1602.6; 1602.7)
If you seek information regarding:
Please note: Portions (up to, and including, all) of any reading room document may be withheld if exempt from the FOIA according to the same policies and restrictions governing individual written requests (Type 3).
Type 3: Individual FOIA Document Requests (45 C.F.R. §1602.8)
If you seek information regarding any other Corporation record then you must request that information via formal FOIA document request letter (see below).
The FOIA Document Request
Upon Receipt of a Request, the Corporation:
Denial of a Request, in Whole or in Part:
When withholding any/all of a document, the Corporation must inform the requester which exemption applies and how, the amount of information withheld (unless disclosing the amount would harm the interest protected by the applicable exemption) and when disclosing a redacted version, if feasible, the explanation should be in the same location as would have been the deleted portion
µat the Corporation's discretion, records which could otherwise be withheld under an exemption, may be made available when legally permitted and not adverse to the Corporation, the public, or a recipient
The Appeal Process:
1 Please note that a request may take the form of traditional letter, e-mail message to FOIA@lsc.gov, or fax to (202) 337-6519.
2 Improperly addressed requests shall be redirected and deemed received upon reaching the appropriate FOIA Officer.
3 If the request is not sufficiently clear, the FOIA Officer shall notify the requester, allowing opportunity to revise the request with the Corporation's guidance. Please see 45 C.F.R. §1602.8(c) for more information. Additionally, there are many on-line resources which assist in writing FOIA requests.
4 There are four criteria for determining the public value of records: the subject of the request, the informative value of the records, the contribution to public understanding, as well as the significance of this improved understanding. Please see 45 C.F.R. §1602.13(f)(1) for more detail, and 45 C.F.R. §1602.13(f)(2) for criteria for assessment of commercial benefit to the requester.
5 Please see later segment regarding denying a request in whole or part.
6 “Search means to review, manually, or by automated means, agency records for the purpose of locating those records which are responsive to a request.” 5 U.S.C. §552 (a)(3)(D).
7 Please note that the FOIA exemptions appear in 5 U.S.C. §552(b)(1) through (b)(9). The C.F.R. listing, however, is unique to the Corporation and therefore, more exact. Hence, for the purposes of this handbook the exemptions are listed at 45 C.F.R. §1602.9(a)(1) through (a)(6); the fact that there are fewer exemptions than listed in the U.S. Code merely reflects the fact that some are not applicable to the Corporation.
8 For more information regarding the language and requirements of an appeal, please refer to 45 C.F.R. §1602.12 (Appeals of denials).
9 Please note, that pursuant to 45 C.F.R. §1602.12 (c), the Inspector General shall make such ruling of an an appeal, when the request pertains to OIG documents. Additionally, if the IG overturns a previous denial, granting access to information previously deemed exempt, the IG must first confer with the LSC President prior to the proposed disclosure. See 45 C.F.R. §1602.12 (d).