According to a complaint filed on Monday in the District of Columbia, Judicial Watch, a non-profit educational organization, wants the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request it lodged in June. The filing contended that the plaintiff’s request for access to certain HHS documents relating to the drug hydroxychloroquine has gone unanswered despite a statutorily imposed deadline of July 7.
The filing explained that Judicial Watch “seeks to promote transparency, accountability, and integrity in government and fidelity to the rule of law.” The organization reportedly regularly requests federal agency records, analyzes the responses, and publicly releases its findings about what the government “is up to.”
On June 8, the plaintiff allegedly sent a FOIA request to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) seeking access to emails sent to and from Director Francis Collins concerning the following terms: gain of function, hydroxychloroquine, HCQ, and/or Wuhan Institute of Virology from Oct.1, 2019 to June 8, 2021.
The NIH acknowledged the plaintiff’s request the next day, but has purportedly failed to provide a substantive response as required by law. Judicial Watch stated that “NIH has failed to: (i) determine whether to comply with the request; (ii) notify Plaintiff of any such determination or the reasons therefor; (iii) advise Plaintiff of the right to appeal any adverse determination; or (iv) produce the requested records or otherwise demonstrate that the requested records are exempt from production.”
The filing claimed that NIH’s failure to make a timely final determination leaves Judicial Watch with no option but to sue the agency. In turn, Judicial Watch asked that the court compel compliance with its FOIA request, require the agency to abide by future requests, and grant the plaintiff an award of its attorneys’ fees and costs.
Judicial Watch is represented by its own counsel.