Statute of Limitations

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This article is part of a series on Litigation

Introduction

Most lawsuits must be filed within a time period set out by the applicable statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for a FOIA claim is six years.[1] However, a requester may refile their FOIA request to restart the statute of limitations.[2]

Exhausting Administrative Remedies

The statute of limitations begins counting when the requester has exhausted their administrative remedies. Note that payment of fees is not prerequisite for the statute of limitations to begin counting down.[3]

Refiling

If the statute of limitations has expired, a requester will be time barred from bringing a FOIA claim. However, a requester may refile an identical FOIA request to restart the process.[4] The new request will replace, rather than amend, the time barred request.[5]

Recent district court opinions on statute of limitations

Recent district court cases regarding this topic from TRAC's FOIA Project. Visit their issue search page for more options.

References

  1. 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a) https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/28/2401 (general federal statute of limitations); Spannaus v. DOJ 824 F.2d 52, 55-56 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (applying the general federal statute of limitations to FOIA claims)
  2. Aftergood v. C.I.A., 225 F. Supp. 2d 27, 30–31 (D.D.C. 2002) (explaining “a requester can resurrect a FOIA claim and, for all practical purposes, render a dismissal pursuant to the statute of limitations meaningless.”)
  3. Kenney v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 700 F. Supp. 2d 111, 116 (D.D.C. 2010)
  4. Aftergood v. C.I.A., 225 F. Supp. 2d 27, 31 (D.D.C. 2002) (allowing requester to file a “substantially identical” supplemental FOIA request after claim based on previous request was time barred)
  5. Porter v. C.I.A., 579 F. Supp. 2d 121, 126–27 (D.D.C. 2008); Spannaus v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 824 F.2d 52, 61 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (holding claim in question was time barred and observing that the requester could “simply refile his FOIA request tomorrow and restart the process”)