New York Law Journal: Cuomo Signs Attorney Fee FOIL Bill

Cuomo Signs Attorney Fee FOIL Bill

By Josefa Velasquez | UPDATEDDec 13, 2017 at 01:57 AM

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (Shutterstock)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed a bill into law requiring state agencies to pay attorney’s fee if a court finds that the agency had no “reasonable basis” for denying a Freedom of Information Law request.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Republican state Sen. Patrick Gallivan, would encourage state agencies to comply with FOIL and “minimize the burden of cost and time from bringing a judicial proceeding,” the legislation says.

In his approval message, Cuomo says the bill “continues to perpetuate a fractured and inequitable system of transparency by only applying to the Executive, and intentionally excluding other branches of government.”

“Specifically, this bill would remove judicial discretion and mandate the award of attorney’s fees against the state. Notably, current law already provides courts with discretion to award attorney’s fees in such situation, but they are not required to do so,” Cuomo wrote.

The Democratic governor vetoed similar legislation in 2015, arguing that the previous bill was “unworkable, inequitable and a piecemeal approach to FOIL reform.” Cuomo has repeatedly criticized the Legislature FOIL exemption and said in his approval message that he would advance reforms to FOIL in this upcoming legislative session—scheduled to begin Jan. 3— “because transparency should be embraced by all.”

The bill signed by the governor remedies what he calls “technical concerns” he had about the previous iteration of the legislation.

“Thus while I continue to harbor concerns about diminishing the court’s discretion in these cases, it is outweighed by the greater principle of increasing transparency,” Cuomo said.

Josefa Velasquez

Josefa Velasquez is a regulatory and Court of Appeals reporter for the New York Law Journal based in Albany, N.Y. Contact Josefa Velasquez at jvelasquez@alm.com. Twitter: @j__velasquez

Original Source: https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/sites/newyorklawjournal/2017/12/13/cuomo-signs-attorney-fee-foil-bill/?slreturn=20171130002613

December 30, 2017