Briefs & Comments

  • October 5, 2015

    The First Amendment Coalition sought to recover costs and fees after it received two memoranda from the government in its FOIA case. The district court held that FAC was not eligible to recover fees and costs because a decision in the Second Circuit was the reason one of the memos had been released, and therefore FAC had not "substantially prevailed." In an amicus brief, we argued that the reasons underlying the fee-shifting provision of FOIA serve many purposes, even when multiple parties seek the same information, and Congress's amendments to FOIA have made clear that a party need not secure judicial relief in order to "substantially prevail." Additionally, news, educational, and non-profit organizations play an important role in vindicating the public's right of access to government records, and should be able to rely on the ability to recover fees and costs.

  • September 25, 2015

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press submitted comments regarding the proposed updates to the Department of Homeland Security's FOIA regulations. 

  • September 24, 2015

    BuzzFeed has asked the Supreme Court of Missouri to review a trial court judge’s decision to seal the jury list in the high profile criminal case against Michael L. Johnson, accused of recklessly transmitting the HIV virus. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press submitted amicus suggestions in support of BuzzFeed’s petition. In the amicus suggestions, the Reporters Committee argued that jury lists are presumptively open under the First Amendment and that their closure can be justified only upon a showing of a compelling governmental interest. The Reporters Committee further argued that providing the press with access to jury lists increases public confidence by ensuring that the judicial process is conducted in the open and by exposing potential corruption.

  • September 14, 2015

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by a coalition of media and journalism organizations, has written to the independent French data protection agency urging it to rescind its order that Google search delistings required under the European Union's "right to be forgotten" rule include domains not just in France or Europe, but around the world.

  • September 14, 2015

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by a coalition of media and journalism organizations, has written to the independent French data protection agency urging it to rescind its order that Google search delistings required under the European Union's "right to be forgotten" rule include domains not just in France or Europe, but around the world.

  • August 27, 2015

    Davis is challenging the constitutionality of a provision of the Stored Communications Act that permits law enforcement to obtain a court order to compel disclosure of historical location information by a cellular phone service provider. The en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the disclosure was not a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. Davis is seeking a writ of certiorari before the United States Supreme Court. The compelled disclosure of historical location data implicates important First and Fourth Amendment rights. Location data can reveal sensitive, private information, including information about associational and expressive activities that are protected by the First Amendment. Fourth Amendment protections must be applied with particular rigor when First Amendment rights are at stake.

  • August 18, 2015

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter on behalf of a 39-member media coalition protesting the decision of St. Louis County officials to press charges against several journalists arrested last year covering the events in Ferguson, Mo.

  • August 17, 2015

    CEI submitted a FOIA request to the Office of Science and Technology Policy asking for email its director maintained in a non-government email account. The government argued, and the district court agreed, that it did not have jurisdiction over the FOIA claim because the agency was not "withholding" the email. On appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals (D.C. Cir.) the Reporters Committee argued that the district court conflated two separate, distinct inquiries in dismissing the FOIA claim, by focusing on whether the information was an "agency record." Given the increasing use of personal emails by government employees, access to such email when it concerns public business is crucial if the public is to be kept informed about what their government is up to.

  • July 24, 2015

    Prosecutors sought a broad gag order against Matthew Clendennen, one of more than 100 motorcycle riders arrested after a May shootout outside a restaurant in Waco, Texas, in which 9 people were killed and 18 injured. The court granted an order preventing all attorneys, their staff, law enforcement, and witnesses who have given statements to law enforcement from talking to the media about Clendennen's case. Clendennen appealed, and an amicus coalition led by the Reporters Committee argued that the gag order violated both the First Amendment and the Texas constitution because it was overbroad and vague. The trial court had made no findings that the news coverage of the incident was inflammatory or prejudicial, focusing instead on the quantity of news coverage.

  • July 22, 2015

    Abdur-Rashid filed a FOIL request with the New York Police Department after the Associated Press reported that the department was conducting surveillance of Muslim communities. The NYPD refused to confirm or deny whether responsive records existed -- which under federal FOIA is known as a "Glomar" response. The trial court accepted the department's argument. The Reporters Committee argued to the N.Y. Supreme Court Appellate Division (1st Dept.) that judicial incorporation of the Glomar doctrine into FOIL would work a profound change to this State's statutory open records regime that was not contemplated or adopted by the Legislature. Allowing state and local agencies to issue Glomar responses will make it more difficult for the press to keep citizens informed about the activities of their government, as journalists routinely rely on FOIL to gain access to important information.

  • June 19, 2015

    The ACLU of Southern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sought Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) data from the City and County of Los Angeles under the California Public Records Act. The City and County contended that all such data was exempt from disclosure as law enforcement records. The City and County prevailed at the trial and appellate court; ACLU and EFF filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court of California. We argued that the breadth of the law enforcement exemption, as interpreted by the court of appeal, violated the constitutional obligation to construe exemptions from disclosure narrowly. Broad law enforcement exemptions shield too many records from public disclosure, and construing the Public Records Act to exempt these documents would significantly impair the ability of the press to inform the public about law enforcement activity.

  • June 16, 2015

    The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) solicited public comments regarding the counterterrorism programs conducted by the Intelligence Community pursuant to Executive Order 12333.The Reporters Committee argued that PCLOB should make public more information about the programs that are in place under E.O. 12333, both because uncertainty regarding surveillance results in an unconstitutional chilling effect on journalists and reporters, and because the surveillance programs themselves may infringe on constitutional rights.

  • June 15, 2015

    The Washington Post sought access to a sealed summary judgment motion and a sealed opinion granting summary judgment in a civil case in the District of Columbia Superior Court. The civil case was filed by a couple whose children were removed from their home on suspicion of child abuse. A family court later found no reason to suspect abuse, and the children were returned to the home. The Caplans later sued the Family Services Agency for negligent and malicious conduct, and the court denied public access to the case. The Post appealed to the D.C. Court of Appeals.

  • May 12, 2015

    The Reporters Committee and 28 other media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of an appeal of the denial of access to information from the Eric Garner grand jury investigation in Long Island, N.Y. The New York Post, along with a coalition of public interest groups that included the NYCLU, Legal Aid Society, the NYC Public Advocate and the Staten Island branch of the NAACP, petitioned for release of documents, transcripts, videos, photos, and other materials from the grand jury. Garner was killed when NYPD officers used a chokehold on him on July 17, 2014. The New York trial court ruled that none of the petitioners had articulated a "compelling and particularized need" for the material. On appeal, the Reporters Committee amicus brief argued that the public interest was best served by disclosing the grand jury materials in this case.

  • May 7, 2015

    This testimony was submitted to the Judiciary Committee of the D.C. Council in response to a public roundtable on the Metropolitan Police Department's use of body-worn cameras (BWC). The Reporters Committee's testimony argues that BWC videos are public records that should be treated the same as any other record under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act. Additional information is provided regarding available technology that can be used to redact the videos for privacy and law enforcement concerns.