February 20, 2007
By: Kristin Sullivan, Associate Analyst
You asked for a description of the procedure the Freedom of Information Commission follows for granting expedited hearings under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). You are particularly interested in the criteria requests must meet for the commission to grant such hearings.
Generally, the law sets the schedule for expedited hearings and regulations set the criteria requests must meet for the commission to grant such hearings. When a public agency denies a person access to a meeting or the right to inspect, or to get a copy of, a public record, he or she may file a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission within 30 days of the denial. The complaint may contain a request for an expedited hearing.
A complaint containing a written request for an expedited hearing must detail the reasons why a hearing after a certain date would not provide adequate relief. The commission's executive director, or her designee, must immediately review each request, together with the complaint, and grant the expedited hearing if the (1) materials demonstrate that the complaint requires priority treatment because of an event or circumstance on a specific date after which available remedies would no longer be sufficient and (2) commission is able to render a final decision by then (Conn. Agencies Reg. § 1-21j-29 (b)). A complainant may appeal a decision not to grant an expedited hearing to the commission, which must consider the matter at its next regular meeting. A respondent may likewise appeal a decision to grant priority assignment to either the commission, which must consider the matter at its next regular meeting, or the presiding officer, who must consider the matter at the hearing.
While the commission has one year to hear most FOIA complaints, it must hold expedited hearings, if at all, within 30 days of receiving requests and decide them within 60 days after the hearings. If a request for an expedited hearing alleges a violation of the law concerning executive sessions, the commission must hold a preliminary hearing within 72 hours after receiving it, provided the parties receive notice at least 48 hours before the hearing. If the commission determines there is probable cause to believe that an executive session is being held in violation of the law, the agency holding the session must halt it until the commission decides the matter (CGS § 1-206 (b) (1)).