28 CFR 16.5 - Timing of responses to requests.

§ 16.5 Timing of responses to requests.
(a) In general. Components ordinarily shall respond to requests according to their order of receipt.
(b) Multitrack processing.
(1) A component may use two or more processing tracks by distinguishing between simple and more complex requests based on the amount of work and/or time needed to process the request, including through limits based on the number of pages involved. If a component does so, it shall advise requesters in its slower track(s) of the limits of its faster track(s).
(2) A component using multitrack processing may provide requesters in its slower track(s) with an opportunity to limit the scope of their requests in order to qualify for faster processing within the specified limits of the component's faster track(s). A component doing so will contact the requester either by telephone or by letter, whichever is more efficient in each case.
(c) Unusual circumstances.
(1) Where the statutory time limits for processing a request cannot be met because of “unusual circumstances,” as defined in the FOIA, and the component determines to extend the time limits on that basis, the component shall as soon as practicable notify the requester in writing of the unusual circumstances and of the date by which processing of the request can be expected to be completed. Where the extension is for more than ten working days, the component shall provide the requester with an opportunity either to modify the request so that it may be processed within the time limits or to arrange an alternative time period with the component for processing the request or a modified request.
(2) Where a component reasonably believes that multiple requests submitted by a requester, or by a group of requesters acting in concert, constitute a single request that would otherwise involve unusual circumstances, and the requests involve clearly related matters, they may be aggregated. Multiple requests involving unrelated matters will not be aggregated.
(d) Expedited processing.
(1) Requests and appeals will be taken out of order and given expedited treatment whenever it is determined that they involve:
(i) Circumstances in which the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual;
(ii) An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged federal government activity, if made by a person primarily engaged in disseminating information;
(iii) The loss of substantial due process rights; or
(iv) A matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity which affect public confidence.
(2) A request for expedited processing may be made at the time of the initial request for records or at any later time. For a prompt determination, a request for expedited processing must be received by the proper component. Requests based on the categories in paragraphs (d)(1)(i), (ii), and (iii) of this section must be submitted to the component that maintains the records requested. Requests based on the category in paragraph (d)(1)(iv) of this section must be submitted to the Director of Public Affairs, whose address is: Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Justice, Room 1128, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington DC 20530-0001. A component that receives a request that must be handled by the Office of Public Affairs shall forward it immediately to that office by hand-delivery or fax.
(3) A requester who seeks expedited processing must submit a statement, certified to be true and correct to the best of that person's knowledge and belief, explaining in detail the basis for requesting expedited processing. For example, a requester within the category in paragraph (d)(1)(ii) of this section, if not a full-time member of the news media, must establish that he or she is a person whose main professional activity or occupation is information dissemination, though it need not be his or her sole occupation. A requester within the category in paragraph (d)(1)(ii) of this section also must establish a particular urgency to inform the public about the government activity involved in the request, beyond the public's right to know about government activity generally. The formality of certification may be waived as a matter of administrative discretion.
(4) Within ten calendar days of its receipt of a request for expedited processing, the proper component shall decide whether to grant it and shall notify the requester of the decision. If a request for expedited treatment is granted, the request shall be given priority and shall be processed as soon as practicable. If a request for expedited processing is denied, any appeal of that decision shall be acted on expeditiously.
Beta! The text on the eCFR tab represents the unofficial eCFR text at ecfr.gov.
§ 16.5 Timing of responses to requests.

(a) In general. Components ordinarily will respond to requests according to their order of receipt. Appendix I to this part contains the list of the Department components that are designated to accept requests. In instances involving misdirected requests that are re-routed pursuant to § 16.4(c), the response time will commence on the date that the request is received by the proper component's office that is designated to receive requests, but in any event not later than 10 working days after the request is first received by any component's office that is designated by these regulations to receive requests.

(b) Multitrack processing. All components must designate a specific track for requests that are granted expedited processing, in accordance with the standards set forth in paragraph (e) of this section. A component may also designate additional processing tracks that distinguish between simple and more complex requests based on the estimated amount of work or time needed to process the request. Among the factors a component may consider are the number of pages involved in processing the request and the need for consultations or referrals. Components shall advise requesters of the track into which their request falls and, when appropriate, shall offer the requesters an opportunity to narrow their request so that it can be placed in a different processing track.

(c) Unusual circumstances. Whenever the statutory time limit for processing a request cannot be met because of “unusual circumstances,” as defined in the FOIA, and the component extends the time limit on that basis, the component shall, before expiration of the 20-day period to respond, notify the requester in writing of the unusual circumstances involved and of the date by which processing of the request can be expected to be completed. Where the extension exceeds 10 working days, the component shall, as described by the FOIA, provide the requester with an opportunity to modify the request or arrange an alternative time period for processing. The component shall make available its designated FOIA contact and its FOIA Public Liaison for this purpose.

(d) Aggregating requests. For the purposes of satisfying unusual circumstances under the FOIA, components may aggregate requests in cases where it reasonably appears that multiple requests, submitted either by a requester or by a group of requesters acting in concert, constitute a single request that would otherwise involve unusual circumstances. Components shall not aggregate multiple requests that involve unrelated matters.

(e) Expedited processing.

(1) Requests and appeals shall be processed on an expedited basis whenever it is determined that they involve:

(i) Circumstances in which the lack of expedited processing could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual;

(ii) An urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged Federal Government activity, if made by a person who is primarily engaged in disseminating information;

(iii) The loss of substantial due process rights; or

(iv) A matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity that affect public confidence.

(2) A request for expedited processing may be made at any time. Requests based on paragraphs (e)(1)(i), (ii), and (iii) of this section must be submitted to the component that maintains the records requested. When making a request for expedited processing of an administrative appeal, the request should be submitted to OIP. Requests for expedited processing that are based on paragraph (e)(1)(iv) of this section must be submitted to the Director of Public Affairs at the Office of Public Affairs, Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20530-0001. A component that receives a misdirected request for expedited processing under the standard set forth in paragraph (e)(1)(iv) of this section shall forward it immediately to the Office of Public Affairs for its determination. The time period for making the determination on the request for expedited processing under paragraph (e)(1)(iv) of this section shall commence on the date that the Office of Public Affairs receives the request, provided that it is routed within 10 working days.

(3) A requester who seeks expedited processing must submit a statement, certified to be true and correct, explaining in detail the basis for making the request for expedited processing. For example, under paragraph (e)(1)(ii) of this section, a requester who is not a full-time member of the news media must establish that the requester is a person whose primary professional activity or occupation is information dissemination, though it need not be the requester's sole occupation. Such a requester also must establish a particular urgency to inform the public about the government activity involved in the request - one that extends beyond the public's right to know about government activity generally. The existence of numerous articles published on a given subject can be helpful in establishing the requirement that there be an “urgency to inform” the public on the topic. As a matter of administrative discretion, a component may waive the formal certification requirement.

(4) A component shall notify the requester within 10 calendar days of the receipt of a request for expedited processing of its decision whether to grant or deny expedited processing. If expedited processing is granted, the request shall be given priority, placed in the processing track for expedited requests, and shall be processed as soon as practicable. If a request for expedited processing is denied, any appeal of that decision shall be acted on expeditiously.

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