University of Michigan releases information requested in its December FOIA lawsuit

ANN ARBOR, MI – A freedom of information lawsuit against the University of Michigan was dismissed after the university released the requested information.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, in partnership with the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims in December on behalf of Lance J. Johnson, a 2007 UM Law School graduate who gave the school a gift.

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Johnson requested information through ACTA about how his gift was being used by the school, claiming it was for a workshop that was only held “sporadically”. The lawsuit was filed after Johnson’s March 2020 FOIA request for this information was delayed for several months.

ACTA and the Mackinac Center dismissed the lawsuit after working with UM to provide the information, according to a joint statement by the three parties on Tuesday, July 27.

“ACTA, through its attorneys at the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, agreed to dismiss the case against the University of Michigan after the university provided the materials ACTA originally sought under the Freedom of Information Act,” the statement said.

“The University of Michigan denies any wrongdoing in this matter and the parties agree that settling this matter together is the most efficient way to resolve this dispute. Both parties are committed to openness and the free flow of information, which are anchored in the FOIA. “

Michael Poliakoff, President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, thanked UM for its “transparency, accountability and respect for donor intent” and the Mackinac Center for its legal advice.

“Through targeted donations, donors can ensure that American higher education lives up to its highest ideals,” Poliakoff said in his statement.

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ACTA made the routine FOIA request for email correspondence regarding the workshop on March 3, 2020 in accordance with the original complaint. UM responded a week later, extending the deadline by 10 days, to respond just five days after the extended deadline when it was making a best possible estimate related to the request, the complaint said.

UM estimated it would take a little over six hours to file the $ 259.12 claim, the complaint said. ACTA paid the fees in April, but the university didn’t confirm receipt of the payment until mid-June, and UM, according to the complaint, extended the deadline to August 21 to complete the application.

No documents were presented in August, and when ACTA followed suit in October, the university gave a new estimated deadline of October 30, the complaint said. After ACTA requested a status update in late October, UM said that according to the complaint, it would not provide a record but an update in the following working days.

ACTA threatened legal action, and in mid-November the university issued a “partial response” stating that it would provide a full response by December 9, the complaint said.

However, the university did not provide a full answer until Tuesday.

ACTA claimed that the multiple renewals issued by the university were illegal under FOIA.

ACTA’s deposit was sent during UM’s two-week stay-in-place order in October, and receipt at the university was delayed, UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in February. In the 2020 calendar year, UM received more than 1,150 FOIA requests, a record number, Fitzgerald said at the time.

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