How a Records Request System Protects You from Lawsuits

Our experience working with clerks and records custodians across the country has shown us that you overwhelmingly value transparency, citizen involvement, and just doing the right thing.

Yet The FOIA Project shows that 754 open records-related lawsuits were filed at the federal level in the first ten months of 2023. That’s a 34% spike from just two years ago!

Why the increase? One reason is that keeping your government agency compliant with FOIA laws has gotten more complex.

In fact, our FOIA trends data shows:

  • Agencies received 16% more records requests in 2022 than 2021
  • Complex “any and all” requests rose 25% from 2021 to 2022
  • 81% of agencies need more time and resources to complete requests than in previous years
  • The number of responsive files per request has almost doubled since 2020

These statistics mean it’s more complicated than ever for government agencies to comply with public records laws.

But the good news is that a records request software can make government FOIA compliance easier. In this blog post, we’ll explore why organizations or individuals can sue over public records requests, what FOIA software does, and how it protects you from lawsuits.

Reasons for Government FOIA Compliance Lawsuits

Individuals or organizations can file suit against government agencies that they believe aren’t following applicable open records laws. This generally means one of three things:

Excessive delay in response

Agencies typically have between 10 and 20 days to provide documents in response to a public records request. The exact time limit varies depending on your jurisdiction.

Excessive delays can sometimes result in legal action against your agency—or you personally. In Texas, a public employee can even be found “criminally negligent” and receive a fine of up to $1000 or 6 months in jail! While harsher penalties are rarely enforced, they show the importance of timely completing requests.

Releasing information that should have been withheld

Each jurisdiction has very specific requirements about what documents can and can’t be released. At the Federal level, for example, FOIA lists nine exemptions related to national security, personal privacy, law enforcement, and other types of information shouldn’t be released. Individuals or organizations may file suit if an agency accidentally releases confidential records.

Not releasing all required information

More commonly, lawsuits are filed because the plaintiff believes documents are withheld or redacted that don’t fall under the exemptions. 

Features of Government FOIA Software

Explore the fundamental functionalities of government FOIA software, such as JustFOIA, to understand how it aids your compliance with regulatory requirements.

Request Tracking and Organization

Many organizations use a spreadsheet to manage the status of FOIA requests manually. FOIA software takes the manual labor out of this process by efficiently tracking the status of each request and organizing it into a single dashboard. You can categorize requests based on priority, status, requester, or subject matter.

Centralized Communication

When information about requests is scattered throughout multiple email threads and memos, it’s easy to lose track. JustFOIA keeps all communication about a request in a single place.

Automated Workflows

JustFOIA’s automated workflows enhance collaboration, enabling swift responses to requests. Once a request comes in, a designated person receives an automatic notification and can assign tasks to the correct departments. Each person receives reminders as due dates approach. Individual recipients can customize which emails they want to obtain from the system and can dismiss notifications once they’ve been completed.

Document Management and Email Tools

JustFOIA eliminates tedious email exchanges or reliance on file delivery systems. Keep all documents related to a request in a centralized document management module. Our solution makes it easy to organize PST files (exported email records) and remove duplicates.


Redaction tools securely handle sensitive information while maintaining compliance. In JustFOIA, you can redact documents manually, or automatically remove information based on pre-defined rules. For example, you can set up your system to automatically redact email addresses or Social Security Numbers.

Reporting and Analytics

JustFOIA’s robust analytics tools generate detailed reports and analytics on request volumes, response times, and trends. This provides insights for process optimization and resource allocation.

Compliance Benefits of Government FOIA Software

“Our legal team loves JustFOIA. It makes it easy for them to review and redact properly. JustFOIA keeps us on track with FOIA deadlines and within the guidelines set forth by state statutes.”

Now that you understand what a records request software does, it should be easy to see how it helps you stay in compliance.


There are many ways a records request software speeds up your request process:

  • Standardized intake forms to ensure you collect the information you need from the start.
  • Reduced manual work that can lead to delays and inefficiencies.
  • Making it easier for many people to work on the same request.
  • Custom, automated workflows with notifications, reminders, and automatic escalations as the due dates approach.
  • Analytics to identify and remove bottlenecks.

Minimize Human Error

Using records request software helps prevent mistakes by simplifying the process and allowing for easy double-checking. JustFOIA guides users step by step, reducing the chances of errors. It also includes an audit trail that keeps track of all actions taken. This means if something is accidentally deleted, there’s a record of it so you can recover the information. This built-in safety net ensures accuracy.

Improved Redaction Accuracy

JustFOIA helps you take the guesswork—and the stress—out of redaction.

When you redact in JustFOIA, you see a drop-down menu listing reasons why a piece of information is redacted, configured to your jurisdiction’s regulations. This helps to keep your redactions accurate by tying them to specific regulations rather than simply redacting based on what you “think” needs to be removed.

A records request solution makes finding the information that should be redacted easier. For instance, suppose you need to erase social security numbers from documents. You might search for “SSN” or “Social Security Number” within the text of the documents—but if an SSN doesn’t have that identifier before it, you may miss it. JustFOIA can identify and auto-redact any number in the format XXX-XX-XXXX so you don’t accidentally release this sensitive information.

Enhanced Organization, Transparency, and Accountability

Customized workflows help keep your team on track and organized. Administrators can view all request statuses at a glance, and general users can easily see what tasks are assigned to them. This reduces confusion about who needs to do what and when—promoting accountability.


Not all file transfer methods are created equal. If you store unredacted records on a file-sharing site that doesn’t follow the strictest security protocols, you open the door to security risks.

You can feel confident that data within JustFOIA is secure. JustFOIA is hosted on the Microsoft Azure Government Cloud, authorized at FedRAMP High, is TX-RAMP certified as a Level 2 Cloud product, and has earned the CJIS Ready Seal.

“Our legal team loves JustFOIA. It makes it easy for them to review and redact properly. JustFOIA keeps us on track with FOIA deadlines and within the guidelines set forth by state statutes.”

About JustFOIA

Virtually any records request software makes it easier to stay compliant than the old-fashioned “spreadsheet method” for tracking requests. However, we’ve designed JustFOIA to be the most feature-rich, easiest-to-use solution on the market—allowing you to fill requests faster and more accurately than any other system.

Are you ready to tighten up vulnerabilities in your processes and protect your agency against lawsuits?

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