NYPD claims its Freedom of Information Act policy is a secret "attorney-client communications"

The NYPD runs an intelligence agency that is even more secretive, and practically as corrupt as the NSA. They even fly their own intelligence officers to the scene of terrorist attacks overseas (and interfere with real investigations). What's more, the NYPD has invented its own, extra-legal system of "classified" documents that it has unilaterally decided it doesn't have to provide to the public in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Shawn Musgrave used Muckrock sent the NYPD a FOIA request for its FOIA manual -- the guidelines by which it decides whether or not it will obey the law requiring it to share its internal workings with the public who pay for them -- only to have the NYPD refuse to provide it, because it is "privileged attorney-client work-product."

As Musgrave says, "Handbooks and training materials hardly qualify as 'confidential communications,' particularly when the subject matter is transparency itself."

In his appeal rejection letter, Mr. David cites two statutes that bar disclosure of attorney-client communications. He argues that the records I requested "reflect confidential communications between members of the FOIL unit and their attorneys in the context of the providing of legal advice concerning the meaning and requirements of the Freedom of Information law." He further suggests that "preparation of these records called upon attorneys to apply the skills and talents of an attorney, making these records attorney work product."

As I wrote in my appeal, I have no doubt that a team of lawyers drafted NYPD's transparency training materials and that they applied every ounce of barrister skill they possess. I hope such qualified individuals would be charged with that task. However, that a lawyer reviewed or even drafted these documents does not make them exempt from disclosure.

I haven't requested NYPD's case notes for FOIL litigation, or strategy memos for how to respond to a particular request. I'm after the handbook that delineates generally which documents to disclose to the public, and which to withhold.

Handbooks and training materials hardly qualify as "confidential communications," particularly when the subject matter is transparency itself.

NYPD counsel doubles down, rules freedom of information manual is confidential

Notable Replies

  1. How do you say "because reasons" in Latin?

  2. At this rate we'll just have to send Snake Plissken in to get it, by any means necessary, soon enough.

  3. 'Quod Caussae'?

    If anyone who wasn't an awful classicist, years ago, wants to chime in, feel free. In the meantime, the NYPD's grasp of rule of law appears to be even weaker than my grasp of Latin, so it should work provisionally.

  4. 'ob causas'

    /Latine loqui non intellego quam utor Google

  5. Organizations such as the NYPD theoretically act according to policies, and procedures that help ensure that the organization's decisions do not depend on the agent executing those decisions, but instead are standardized across the organization. The FOIA handbook contains policies that similarly ensure that a high level of intransigence and stonewalling are maintained throughout the unit, so that the more receptive clerks are constrained by unspecified "policy."

    Release of the FOIA rules could enable journalists to discover how to "hack the policy" so that clerks who have followed policy in denying access could be manipulated into following the rules to allowing access.

    And we can't have that? Why, that would make the NYPD accountable to the people, instead of to whatever insular interest controls them. Dangerous times. Dangerous times.

    When I went to college in the early 1990s, the Governor was in the habit of applying attorney client work privilege to the daily workings of his bureaucracy, especially the environmental protection bureau. So this is nothing exceptional. But that doesn't mean that it's defensible.

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