The following blog post was written by Seline Wiedemer, the 2023 summer law clerk for the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and a rising second-year law student at Georgetown University Law Center.
My experience working with OGIS at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) this summer was an incredible opportunity that was both eye-opening and rewarding. I was able to witness firsthand the vital role that OGIS plays in ensuring the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) works to uphold transparency and accountability in our federal government.
OGIS serves as the FOIA Ombudsman for federal agencies and the public on FOIA disputes and other matters related to FOIA requests. The FOIA enables all people to access federal government information, and my experiences at OGIS allowed me to witness the tangible impact of open government policies. My responsibilities at OGIS ranged from conducting legal research on FOIA-related matters identified by OGIS staff to assisting in the review and analysis of disputed FOIA cases.
Throughout my time at OGIS, I had the privilege of contributing to meaningful projects. I wrote legal memos aimed to improve FOIA procedures and enhance public access to government information, and to offer some clarity to OGIS staff on complex legal questions. And I joined OGIS staff in FOIA Advisory Committee and subcommittee meetings, meetings with FOIA experts in other agencies, and public forums, where I witnessed their efforts to strengthen FOIA.
One of the most significant takeaways from my clerkship was observing the inner workings of an agency committed to upholding the principles of open government. OGIS is at the forefront of ensuring federal agencies comply with FOIA, promoting openness, and bridging the gap between government and its citizens. The dedicated team at OGIS navigate complex legal issues with agility and bring passion and commitment to their work every day. Their dedication to transparency and public service was inspiring.
As the summer ends, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the invaluable experiences gained during my legal clerkship with OGIS at NARA. I am leaving with a greater understanding of the critical role transparency plays in a democracy. My time with OGIS instilled in me a commitment to promoting transparency and accountability throughout my legal career. I am eager to continue working towards a more open government and promoting active participation in our democracy. A legal clerkship with an office like OGIS is a fulfilling experience that allows law clerks to explore the world of public service, and I know it has left an indelible mark on my journey as a legal professional.