The Third Department determined the award of attorney’s for a FOIL request is not precluded when the underlying action is rendered moot because the requested documents were ultimately provided (after an initial refusal):
The fact that the proceeding has been rendered moot by the disclosure of the documents does not … preclude petitioner’s request for an award of fees … .The Public Officers Law permits an award of “reasonable [counsel] fees and other litigation costs” where the petitioner “has substantially prevailed” in a FOIL proceeding and “when the agency failed to respond to a request . . . within the statutory time frame” … . Under the circumstances, as petitioner included in his petition a request for fees associated with the FOIL application, the matter must be remitted to Supreme Court for a determination of an award of costs and fees pursuant to Public Officers Law § 89 (4) (c) (i). Matter of Lewis v James, 2022 NY Slip Op 04066, Third Dept 6-23-22
Practice Point: If a FOIL request, after an initial refusal to provide the requested documents, is rendered moot by the respondent’s ultimately providing the documents, an award of attorney’s fees to the petitioner is not precluded.