Briefs & Comments

  • March 18, 2014

    Under Texas Penal Code § 21.15, a person commits a felony if he or she “photographs [or otherwise records] . . . a visual image of another” in any location “without the other person’s consent” and “with [the] intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire” of the photographer or a third party. This amicus brief, written for the Reporters Committee by the UCLA School of Law First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, argues that the statute is a content-based restriction on the creation of constitutionally protected speech, and is therefore unconstitutional under the extremely demanding “strict scrutiny” test.

  • March 17, 2014

    A newspaper accurately reported that a woman was arrested for a marijuana offense. The arrest was expunged from her record as part of a first-offender diversion program deal. She sued the newspaper, claiming that the expungement statute means that newspapers must treat the arrest as if it never happened, and must therefore remove the story from their archives. The district court rejected the argument, and the plaintiff appealed to the Second Circuit. This amicus brief, written for the Reporters Committee by the UCLA School of Law First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, argues that an "erasure" statute cannot restrict the speach of non-government speakers, and that libel law does not require publications to update information that was accurate when reported.

  • March 14, 2014 reporter Joseph Hosey was ordered to testify in an Illinois murder trial regarding the identity of his source who supplied him with a police report that contained details of the double murder. The judge in the trial court applied the state's shield law to Hosey but nonetheless deprived him of the privilege, finding that the identity of the source was relevant to the trial, alternative sources had been exhausted, and the information was essential to protect the public interest. When Hosey still refused to disclose his source, the judge fined him $1,000 plus $300 a day until he complied. Hosey appealed, and the fines are on hold pending resolution of the appeal. In this amicus brief, joined by 38 other media organizations, we argue that the Illinois reporter's privilege should protect Hosey from having to reveal his source in court. We emphasize the importance of crime reporting and why reporters must have access to reliable information from law enforcement sources.

  • March 10, 2014

    The Reporters Committee joined an amicus brief in two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court examining the issue of warrantless searches of the cell phones of arrested suspects. In this brief, written by attorneys at Davis Wright Tremaine, we argued that Fourth Amendment law must acknowledge the role that smart phones play in modern society and particularly with journalists, and the information is clearly of a personal nature sufficient to demand that officers obtain a search warrant before examining the records on such phones.

  • December 10, 2013

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief on behalf of several news organizations in support of a challenge to Utah's "agricultural operation interference" statute, or "ag-gag" law, arguing that the restrictions interfere with the First Amendment rights of those who want to inform the public about important matters involving food safety.

  • December 2, 2013

    The Reporters Committee submitted a letter, joined by 12 news organizations, to the U.K. parliament's Home Affairs Committee in advance of its hearing where Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has been compelled to testify about national security implications of its reporting on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

  • November 26, 2013

    The Reporters Committee and 25 other media organizations argued to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that its decision to deny standing to a Yale Law School clinic violates the First Amendment, under which access to judicial proceedings is a right that all members of the public share. The brief also argues that the FISA Court should grant motions by the ACLU, MFIAC and ProPublica, Inc. to release more opinions that explain the legal basis of NSA surveillance programs. This brief concerns the same FISA Court opinions as an earlier media coalition brief.)

  • November 21, 2013

    The Reporters Committee and several news organizations signed on to a letter to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney protesting access limits that bar news photographers from covering official activities of the president, while the White House later releases official photos of the same events.

  • November 18, 2013

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 13 other news organizations filed an amicus brief in the Northern District of California in support of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's challenge to the NSA's phone data collection program. The brief argues that mass call tracking compromises confidential reporter-source relationships to the detriment of the public interest.

  • November 13, 2013

    The Reporters Committee and 19 other news organizations filed an amicus brief with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals urging it to accept jurisdiction to hear an immediate appeal of the denial of a special motion to dismiss under the D.C. anti-SLAPP statute.

  • November 12, 2013

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief with the Virginia Supreme Court in a case involving access to University of Virginia professor Michael Mann's email exchanges related to his climate change research, arguing that the lower court's definition of "proprietary information" that is exempt from disclosure is far too broad and would make any document in the possession of a government agency exempt from the Virginia records act.

  • November 7, 2013

    The Reporters Committee wrote to a Shelby County, Ala., circuit court judge arguing that a blogger, Roger Shuler, should not be kept in jail on a contempt charge for refusing to remove articles from his web site. Shuler has been held for more than two weeks for violating a judge's order. The court has not issued a judgment on the underlying libel suit. The letter requested that the court rescind the civil contempt order entered against Mr. Shuler for violating the unconstitutional prior restraint and unseal the records in the case.

  • October 22, 2013

    The Reporters Committee and seven other organizations filed an amicus brief with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals urging it to reverse an order of the D.C. Superior Court denying a Wikipedia editor's special motion to quash under the D.C. anti-SLAPP statute.

  • October 11, 2013

    A coalition of news media organizations submitted comments to the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which President Obama created to make recommendations on protecting privacy after the public learned about the extent of the NSA surveillance programs and the operations of the FISA court. The coalition recommended a series of changes to better protect the First Amendment rights of the news media and whistleblowers.

  • October 2, 2013

    The Reporters Committee and two media organizations wrote a letter opposing a defense motion in the murder trial of James Holmes, the suspect in the Aurora, Colo. theater shootings. The letter supports the opposition brief filed by a coalition of news organizations covering the trial. The defense motion asks the court to (1) suppress all transcripts of the proceedings; (2) suppress the register of actions; and (3) remove access to most pleadings from its website.