News

Format: 2015-03-02
Format: 2015-03-02
February 25, 2015
Media organizations are fighting to overturn a gag order and sealing order entered in connection with the criminal trial of Donald Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy. The matter is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
February 13, 2015
The makers of Citizenfour, the Oscar-nominated documentary film about Edward Snowden, have moved to dismiss a federal civil lawsuit that alleges they aided and abetted the “illegal and morally wrongful acts” of Snowden.
February 12, 2015
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has sent a letter to the Virginia House of Delegates urging them to reject Senate Bill 1393, which would exempt crucial information on the drugs used in executions, as well as the pharmacies that produce them and any investigations into those pharmacies, from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Virginia FOIA). The bill passed the Virginia Senate Tuesday by a vote of 23 to 14.
January 30, 2015
Issues of compliance with the Freedom of Information Act received some attention during Loretta Lynch's eight-hour confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Lynch said she will work with Congress to improve public access to open records, and described the Freedom of Information Act as "an important tool for the American people." But Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas asked Lynch about "critical comments" made in a FOIA management evaluation of the U.S. Attorney's office of the Eastern District of New York, where Lynch was in charge.
January 29, 2015
U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg has fined two whistleblowers in Atlanta for contacting members of the media during a five-year period while the suit was under seal. Whistleblowers Victor Bibby and Brian Donnelly, mortgage brokers at U.S. Financial Services Inc., discussed the case confidentially with FOX investigative reporters nearly four years after they initially filed their complaint but a year before the case was unsealed. Their punishment, imposed in a January 5 order, is to pay a $1.61 million fine. The order was first reported by the Atlanta legal newspaper The Daily Report.
January 23, 2015
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, along with 36 news organizations, filed an amicus brief last week with the U.S. Court of Appeals (6th Cir.) arguing that mugshots taken by the U.S. Marshals Service must be released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. The brief argues that not only is there no privacy right implicated by releasing photos of persons who have been arrested, indicted, and appeared in open court, but that there is a powerful interest in ensuring the criminal justice system remains open to the public.
January 14, 2015
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments Tuesday in Cause of Action v. FTC, a case that challenges whether the Federal Trade Commission properly denied fee waiver requests made by the non-profit group Cause of Action. The group asserted it was entitled to a fee waiver both because its requests were in the public interest and they are a representative of the news media. Katie Townsend, Litigation Director at the Reporters Committee, argued before the court as amicus curiae in support of the Cause of Action, focusing on the changing nature of disseminating information to the public in the digital age.
January 14, 2015
Yesterday, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (OIG) released its 2012 report on Activities Under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 for the first time. When the report was originally issued, it was classified and not disclosed to the public. The report, in redacted form, was released in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by The New York Times, and reveals that the FBI failed to report that it illegally collected information on individuals inside the United States.
January 13, 2015
Two new lawsuits are challenging the continued secrecy of the grand jury investigations related to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. The suits demonstrate just how secret the information gathered by a grand jury is, while also making a compelling case for the public interest in greater access.
December 16, 2014
An Illinois appellate court has reversed a trial court’s order that a reporter reveal his confidential source, shooting down the judge's conclusion that finding the identity of a leaker of a police document in a murder case justified compelled disclosure. The Reporters Committee, joined by 38 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in the case, People of the State of Illinois v. Bethany McKee, in April 2014.
December 12, 2014
The European Union has claimed the authority to regulate search results that appear on American servers in a November proposal regarding the ‘right to be forgotten,’ a proposition that is worrisome to U.S. journalists. Under the current European privacy law, individuals can ask the European versions of search engines to remove links to information about themselves from search results. Sites like Google.uk and Google.de have been forced to comply with the requests unless the information serves a compelling public interest. Users who want to access the delisted links are switching from European sites like Google.uk or Google.de to Google.com, which is hosted on U.S. servers.
December 12, 2014
A bipartisan FOIA reform bill failed to be put to a vote in the House on Thursday after it was unanimously approved by the Senate. The inaction spelled death for the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, as House members are scheduled to leave town today and have not scheduled a vote on the measure. One of the more frustrating aspects of the incident is that the House unanimously passed an even broader FOIA reform bill in February, leaving open government advocates wondering about the reasons for the House’s inaction. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who co-sponsored the Senate bill along with John Cornyn, R-Texas, blamed House Speaker John Boehner, tweeting on Thursday night, “And Boehner kills #FOIA improvements.”
December 9, 2014
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has filed a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California over their refusal to grant access to important historical documents currently being held in a library at the University of California, Berkeley. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of both the Reporters Committee and Professor Stephen Bloom, a journalist, author, and professor of journalism at the University of Iowa who has written extensively about California’s history.
December 9, 2014
After a last minute hold was released, the Senate unanimously passed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 yesterday. The Act, which strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), will now head to the House for its approval. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) lifted his hold on the bill late in the day on Monday, allowing the bill to proceed. When asked about the reasons for his delay, the Senator rather mysteriously said, “it’s sort of the internal workings of the Senate.” Lifting the hold allowed Sen. Leahy to go to the floor and secure the unanimous consent of the Senate.
December 5, 2014
A controversial prior restraint in a Connecticut familly court case has been lifted, but the judge made clear that he still believes he did the right thing in barring the Connecticut Law Tribune from reporting on a publicly available document. Superior Court Judge Stephen Frazzini vacated the order prohibiting a newspaper from reporting on a child custody case Wednesday. Frazzini did not find that the prior restraint violated the First Amendment. Instead, he recognized in his December 3 memorandum that it was pointless to maintain the order once other media outlets disclosed the same information, and that preventing the Law Tribune from disclosing already disseminated information no longer protected or endangered the children’s interests.