Lawyer Loses Bid for |FOIA Attorney Fees

     (CN) – A lawyer who represented himself in a request for records on how the U.S. Army awarded Bronze Stars during Operation Iraqi Freedom has lost his bid for attorney fees in the 2nd Circuit.

     While serving as a judge advocate during the Iraq War, James E. Pietrangelo II filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information on how the Army had awarded the Bronze Stars, claiming the process was corrupt.
     The Army released most of the redacted documents, but refused to waive the copying fees.
     The district court decided that Pietrangelo was entitled to a full fee waiver for the costs of producing the documents – a total of $363 – but dismissed his remaining claims. It also denied his motion for attorney fees on the basis that he had represented himself.
     The New York-based appeals court acknowledged its previous stance that pro se litigants “are generally not eligible for prevailing attorneys’ fee awards under the FOIA.” However, Pietrangelo’s case was the first to raise the question of whether pro se attorneys are entitled to attorney fees.
     In a per-curiam decision, the judges found no reason to make an exception for self-representing attorneys.
     Pietrangelo was also the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the Army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of banning openly gay individuals from serving in the military.
     The Supreme Court on Monday refused to review the case.

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