A CITIZEN'S GUIDE ON USING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
AND THE PRIVACY ACT OF 1974 TO REQUEST GOVERNMENT RECORDS
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VII. K. FILING FOR JUDICIAL APPEAL
The Privacy Act provides a civil remedy whenever an agency denies access to a record or refuses to amend a record. An individual may sue an agency if the agency fails to maintain records with accuracy, relevance, timeliness, and completeness as is necessary to assure fairness in any agency determination and the agency makes a determination that is adverse to the individual. An individual may also sue an agency if the agency fails to comply with any other Privacy Act provision in a manner that has an adverse effect on the individual.
The Privacy Act protects a wide range of rights about personal records maintained by Federal agencies. The most important are the right to inspect records and the right to seek correction of records. Other rights have also been mentioned here, and still others can be found in the text of the act. Most of these rights can become the subject of litigation.
An individual may file a lawsuit against an agency in the Federal District Court in which the individual lives, in which the records are situated, or in the District of Columbia. A lawsuit must be filed within 2 years from the date on which the basis for the lawsuit arose.
Most individuals require the assistance of an attorney to file a lawsuit. An individual who files a lawsuit and substantially prevails may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and litigation costs reasonably incurred. Some requesters may be able to handle their own case without an attorney. Since this is not a litigation guide, details about the judicial appeal process have not been included. Anyone considering filing a Privacy Act lawsuit can begin by reviewing the provisions of the Privacy Act on civil remedies.\39\
\39\ See note 30.