Briefs & Comments

  • August 19, 2016

    The Reporters Committee, joined by 57 news organizations, filed an amicus brief with the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, in support of New York Times reporter Frances Robles in her effort to fight a subpoena to testify about a jailhouse interview and turn over her notes. The amicus brief argued that the trial court that ordered her to testify did not give sufficient consideration to the protections in the New York Shield Law, which only allows subpoenas against journalists for non-confidential information when the information is highly relevant, meaning the case should "rise or fall" with the evidence. The brief argued that reporter's relations with their sources will be jeopardized if such information, and particularly information from jailhouse interviews with criminal defendants, is compelled without meeting that high standard.

  • August 15, 2016

    The Legal Aid Society has asserted they have a right under New York's Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") to a summary of the number of substantiated complaints made to the Civilian Complaint Review Board concerning Officer Daniel Pantaleo, a New York Police Department officer involved in the death of Eric Garner in July 2014. At issue is whether the summary constitutes a "personnel record" under CRL § 50-a, a New York state law that exempts some police personnel files from disclosure under FOIL. The Reporters Committee argued in an amicus brief, which was joined by 20 other news organizations, that the summary does not constitute a "personnel record," and even if it weren't, disclosure would not frustrate the primary purpose of the statute, which was to prevent personnel records from being used to harass officers in the context of litigation.

  • August 10, 2016

    Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Executive Director Bruce Brown submitted supplemental testimony to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, explaining the Constitutional authority for enacting the federal anti-SLAPP bill. Specifically, the testimony details how Congress is authorized to enact the SPEAK FREE Act under the Commerce Clause and is authorized to include a broad removal provision under Article III.

  • August 10, 2016

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, together with 30 other media organizations, filed an amicus letter brief with the California Supreme Court urging it to review a case in which Yelp was ordered to take down material from its site without notice or an opportunity to be heard. A trial court had entered a default judgment in a libel suit after the defendant failed to appear and contest the suit. The plaintiff then sought and received an injunction requiring Yelp to remove the reviews. Two courts found that Yelp was bound by the injunction. The amicus letter argued that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes online services providers from injunctions, an injunction restraining speech of a nonparty is an improper remedy for a defamation action, and the lower courts improperly required a content distributor to remove speech before allowing an opportunity to be heard.

  • July 29, 2016

    Reporter and filmmaker Mark Boal conducted a series of interviews with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl that were published on the Serial podcast in 2015. Subsequently, the military prosecutor in the court martial of Sgt. Bergdahl informed Boal that he intended to subpoena Boal to obtain the recordings of the interviews in their entirety. Before the military subpoena was issued, Boal filed a complaint in the Central District of California arguing that the reporter's privilege should protect against the compelled disclosure of the recordings. The Reporters Committee and 36 other media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of Boal. The amicus brief explains the important policy reasons underpinning recognition of the reporter's privilege, argues that the reporter's privilege extends to Boal and asserts that the Court should address Boal's claims now, so that he can avoid unnecessary injury.

  • July 29, 2016

    The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news media organizations submitted comments on a draft policy regarding the NYPD's bodycam program. The comments highlight the importance of compliance with New York's Freedom of Information Law when it comes to requests for bodycam video. They address, among other things, the limited scope of exceptions to disclosure, segregation requirements, technology and redactions, discretionary releases, and fees associated with FOIL requests.

  • July 14, 2016

    The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news organizations wrote to the Cleveland mayor and police chief, objecting to the city's policy banning gas masks during protests. We argued that journalists, who would not be engaged in the activity that prompts the use of tear gas, need to cover these newsworthy events, and that police should allow credentialed journalists to carry them near the protests and parades.

  • June 30, 2016

    A requester sought police audio and video taken at the site of a car crash in Pennsylvania, under the state's Right to Know Law. The Pennsylvania State Police denied the request, citing several exemptions. The requester sued, and the trial court held that one of the videos must be released, but that portions of the audio in another video could be redacted. The PSP appealed the decision. The amicus brief of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association and the Reporters Committee argues: (1) police dashcam videos are documentary in nature, and generally cannot be withheld under exemptions that apply to investigatory material; (2) the PA Wiretap Act does not prevent the disclosure of dashcam videos under the Right to Know Law; and (3) access to dashcam videos and bodycam videos is important is important for the public and the press to understand the actions of law enforcement and engage in democratic oversight of their government.

  • June 29, 2016

    Ryan Larson sued Gannett Company, Inc., for defamation in Minnesota after a local television station and newspaper reported on the police investigation into the killing of a police officer. After the officer's death, law enforcement officials held a news conference and issued a press release stating they had arrested Larson in connection with the death. Journalists from KARE 11 and the St. Cloud Times reported on Larson's arrest. Police later cleared Larson as a suspect. The trial court denied Gannett's motion for summary judgment that asserted the statements were protected under the fair report privilege. Gannett appealed for discretionary review to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The Reporters Committee filed a request to participate as amicus curiae in support of Gannett's petition for discretionary review.

  • June 27, 2016

    The Animal Legal Defense Fund and other organizations challenged Idaho Code Ann. § 18-7042, known as an "ag-gag" statute, as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The law criminalizes audio and video recording at agriculture facilities. The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho struck down the law. The Reporters Committee and 22 media organizations filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of Plaintiffs-Appellees. The brief argues that journalists and whistleblowers who serve as their sources have improved food safety and agriculture facility conditions through the years by exposing violations. Idaho's "ag-gag" statue infringes upon the First Amendment rights of those seeking to disseminate information to the public about food safety, the treatment of animals, and environmental concerns.

  • June 22, 2016

    In testimony prepared for the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Executive Director Bruce Brown tells lawmakers that the time has come to enact a federal anti-SLAPP law.

  • June 15, 2016

    Jesse Friedman was denied access to witness statements provided to local law enforcement under the confidential source exemption in New York's Freedom of Information Law. The Reporters Committee and 19 media organizations argued that the Second Department of the Appellate Division erred in concluding that non-testifying witness statements are categorically exempt under FOIL. Not only are blanket exemptions contrary to FOIL, but the holding below is contrary to those of the other Departments in the Appellate Division and the United States Supreme Court. Access to witness statements is also crucially important for the press to keep the public informed about the activities of law enforcement agencies, which counsels against a blanket exemption for such statements. 

  • June 13, 2016

    The Reporters Committee submitted administrative comments to the Department of Labor recommending that it modify its Privacy Act routine uses so that OGIS can better fulfill its statutory duties under FOIA. 

  • June 10, 2016

    This federal Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, case arises out of the refusal of the FBI, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice to release records requested by Freedom of the Press Foundation regarding the FBI’s use of national security letters (“NSLs”) and exigent letters to obtain the toll billing records of journalists. The Reporters Committee, joined by 37 media organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of Freedom of the Press Foundation's opposition to the Government's motion for summary judgment to emphasize the critical importance to the press and the public of access to information about the manner in which the FBI seeks to use legal process to obtain the toll billing records of reporters and news organizations.

  • June 7, 2016

    Two animal protection organizations and a woman arrested while documenting events at an agricultural site from a public road have challenged Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-112, known as an "ag-gag" statute, as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The statute criminalizes recording images and sounds of agricultural production facilities without the facility owner's express consent. The Reporters Committee, joined by 17 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Amici explain that journalists and other organizations have a long history of improving food safety by exposing violations in agriculture productions. Utah's "ag-gag" statute interferes with the First Amendment rights of those continuing to inform the public about food safety, the treatment of animals, and environmental concerns.