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About Mediation Program

OGIS offers dispute resolution services. This is an umbrella term that covers types of assistance—including mediation and other informal processes such as facilitation or conciliation—in which OGIS staff facilitates communication between the parties to resolve a dispute. OGIS staff also provide ombuds services, which includes providing information and handling general complaints and observations. All dispute resolution services are in accordance with the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996, 5 USC §§ 571-84, including its confidentiality provision.

FOIA requesters and agencies may request OGIS’s assistance in resolving a dispute at any point in the FOIA process. OGIS does not “take sides” in a disputes or advocate on behalf of a requester or agency; the office promotes a fair FOIA process and works with parties to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.

Mediation Services Process

When a customer contacts OGIS to resolve a dispute, the process is generally as follows:

1. Opening a case:

  • Customer submits information including a description of the dispute, the assistance requested from OGIS and any relevant correspondence 
  • OGIS assigns a case number which is provided to the customer
  • If needed, OGIS asks for a signed consent
  • OGIS assigns a staff member to the case

2. Information Gathering:

  • OGIS reviews the information provided, typically including a description of the dispute and copies of relevant correspondence, and contacts the customer for clarification if necessary
  • OGIS contacts the agency FOIA Public Liaison to discuss the dispute and may be directed to FOIA professionals within the agency to further discuss the issue and gather facts
  • OGIS staff may need to conduct independent research or consult with the Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice, the government’s FOIA policy office, before accepting the request for mediation

3. Informal processes for resolving the dispute:

  1. Facilitation

    • OGIS communicates any information one party approves to share with the other, including potential solutions either party may suggest
    • OGIS may offer options for resolution
    • For facilitation to succeed, the parties must agree to the resolution of the dispute
    • In some cases, OGIS may facilitate meetings or calls that include both the requester and the agency

  2. Ombuds services

    • OGIS answers queries about the FOIA process and provides general FOIA assistance
    • OGIS logs and addresses observations, complaints and suggestions on FOIA issues

4. Closing the case:

OGIS strives to resolve FOIA disputes. In situations when a party to the dispute is firm in its position, OGIS will provide more information about how the request was processed to increase understanding, provide explanation of any exemptions invoked, and inform any next steps. OGIS closes most cases in writing by issuing a final response letter or email, providing a copy of the final response to both the requester and the agency. Examples of OGIS final response letters from past cases are available cases here.

If you would like to request OGIS’s assistance, please submit the materials related to your case by U.S. mail, email or fax to: 

Office of Government Information Services
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road - OGIS
College Park, MD 20740-6001
ogis@nara.gov
Fax: 202-741-5769