Office of Government Information Services (OGIS)

The Mediation Process

After a customer requests Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) assistance with resolving a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dispute, the process is generally as follows:

1. Opening a case

  • Customer submits information including a description of the dispute, the assistance requested from OGIS and any relevant correspondence
  • OGIS assigns a case number which is provided to the customer
  • If needed, OGIS asks for a signed privacy consent form or statement (if appropriate)
  • OGIS assigns a staff member to the case

2. Information Gathering

  • OGIS reviews the information provided, typically including a description of the dispute and copies of relevant correspondence, and contacts the customer for clarification if necessary
  • OGIS contacts the agency FOIA Public Liaison to discuss the dispute and may be directed to FOIA professionals within the agency to further discuss the issue and gather facts
  • OGIS staff may need to conduct independent research or consult with the Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice, the government’s FOIA policy office, before accepting the request for mediation

3. Informal processes for resolving the dispute

  • Mediation
    • A voluntary and collaborative process in which a neutral third party—OGIS—works with disputing parties to discuss the issues and help them find mutually agreeable solutions to their disputes within the confines of the FOIA statute.
  • Ombuds Services
    • OGIS answers queries about the FOIA process and provides general FOIA assistance
    • OGIS logs and addresses observations, complaints and suggestions on FOIA issues
  • Conciliation
    • OGIS assists the disputing parties by helping them open communication lines that will encourage further dialogue and clarify any misunderstandings that may exist.
  • Facilitation
    • OGIS  continues the conciliation process by working with the disputing parties to promote communication and clarify issues.
    • OGIS may offer options for resolution
    • For facilitation to succeed, the parties must agree to the resolution of the dispute
    • ​In some cases, OGIS may facilitate meetings or calls that include both the requester and the agency

4. Closing the case

OGIS strives to resolve FOIA disputes. In situations when a party to the dispute is firm in its position, OGIS will provide more information about how the request was processed to increase understanding, provide explanation of any exemptions invoked, and inform any next steps. OGIS closes most cases in writing by issuing a final response letter or email, providing a copy of the final response to both the requester and the agency. Examples of OGIS final response letters from past cases are available cases here.

Request assistance with a Federal FOIA issue or dispute

Related Links

FOIA Resources
Mediation Program
Mediation Program - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)