Briefs & Comments

  • September 26, 2016

    In this case, the District Court recognized that the nondisclosure requirements in a National Security Letter statute (18 U.S.C. § 2709(c)) amount to a prior restraint, it nonetheless applied a lesser level of scrutiny than prior restraints receive. The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit. The Reporters Committee argued the district court's permissive standard is only appropriate in limited circumstances, such as licensing regimes for obscene movies. Section 2709(c), on the other hand, restrains speech on matters of public concern. The brief concluded that a ruling by the Ninth Circuit finding the nondisclosure provision is anything less than a classic prior restraint - requiring the highest burden on the government - will weaken essential constitutional protections guaranteeing the free flow of information to the public.

  • September 2, 2016

    Microsoft challenged the federal law that allows the Department of Justice to impose gag orders, often permanently, on communications services providers when served with a search warrant for their customers' records. The Reporters Committee, joined by a coalition of 29 other media organizations, argued that the gag orders function as prior restraints that interfere with the news media's right to receive information, interfere with the right of access to court records, and threaten the confidential relationship between reporters and their sources. The brief was written with attorneys with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

  • 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.

  • September 3, 2015

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus letter in a controversial case over abortion-related videos. The National Abortion Federation is suing the Center for Medical Progress for breach of contract, among other claims, related to CMP's dissemination of video recordings taken at abortion services conferences. NAF obtained a temporary restraining order enjoining CMP from disseminating additional videos. The Reporters Committee argued that any temporary restraining order purporting to enjoin speech protected by the First Amendment must be subjected to strict scrutiny.

  • March 26, 2015

    In October 2014, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered the Pasadena Police Officers Association (PPOA) to release a redacted copy of a report produced by the Office of Independent Review Group for the City of Pasadena that reviewed police department policies in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed teenager. In January, the L.A. Times filed a petition for writ of mandate with the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, in California for release of the report. The PPOA quoted from the report liberally in its reply brief, which was filed publicly without redaction, and the brief was distributed to the parties. Nine days later, PPOA sought to replace the unredacted copy of the brief with a redacted version, to file the unredacted version under seal, and to have the parties return their copy of the unredacted brief to the court. The Court of Appeal issued the order. The L.A.

  • March 18, 2015

    Nick Merrill is suing the FBI to lift a ten-year-old gag order preventing him from disclosing key details related to a National Security Letter (NSL) he received in 2004. NSLs are a secretive form of administrative subpoena frequently accompanied by a nondisclosure order. Merrill was the first person to challenge the constitutionality of NSLs. In 2010, the gag order preventing Merrill from speaking about the NSL he received was partially lifted, but the FBI continued to bar Merrill from disclosing the categories of information they sought in the 2004 NSL. The Reporters Committee submitted an amicus brief in support of Merrill arguing that the press and the public have a constitutional right to hear information that Merrill wishes to disclose. We also argued that information regarding how FBI uses NSLs to obtain communication records has significant statutory and constitutional implications.

  • February 17, 2015

    Twitter is suing the Department of Justice in the Northern District of California, contending that restrictions on disclosing the number of FISA requests and national security letters it receives are unconstitutional prior restraints on its speech. Five U.S. communications providers filed motions in 2013 to allow them to publish aggregate data about FISA orders and national security letters they had received. These five companies — Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo!, and LinkedIn — entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice allowing for limited disclosures. Twitter took issue with the fact that providers who have never received a NSL or FISA order are apparently forbidden to reveal that fact. The government argued that the district court should dismiss the case, contending that the FISA Court is a more appropriate venue.

  • February 17, 2015

    Media plaintiffs, prisoners' rights groups, and prisoners sued the State of Pennsylvania Attorney General in the Middle District of Pennsylvania over the constitutionality of the Revictimization Relief Act, a law that put restraints on the conduct and speech of convicted prisoners that caused "mental anguish" in the minds of their victims and those close to the victims. Plaintiffs sued for a preliminary injunction, arguing that the law was unconstitutional. The Reporters Committee and three other amici filed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs. The brief argued that the Act's restriction on speech is an unconstitutionally vague prior restraint on a limitless range of speech, including matters of public interest.

  • December 2, 2014

    A Connecticut Superior Court judge in the juvenile division, overseeing a custody dispute, issued a prior restraint order against the Connecticut Law Tribune, prohibiting a reporter from publishing information he obtained while in the courtroom and from a court document that had been posted publicly on the court website. The judge also sealed transcripts and his orders and memorandum justifying the prior restraint. The Connecticut Law Tribune appealed, and the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal. The Reporters Committee and 48 media companies filed a motion to appear as amici curiae, arguing that the court violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments when it issued an order barring publication of information lawfully obtained from a court document posted on the court's own public website. We argued that there is a heavy presumption against prior restraints generally, and specifically under the U.S. Supreme Court holding in Oklahoma Publishing Co. v.

  • April 11, 2014

    The Reporters Committee joined a media coalition amicus brief in a case ordering Google to take down a You-Tube video, the "Innocence of Muslims" movie, based on an actress's copyright claim in her brief appearance. The brief supports Google's petition to the Ninth Circuit to rehear the decision of a panel that ordered the take-down and then required Google to keep the order secret.

  • 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.

  • June 2, 2011

    Asking the Ninth Circuit to reverse a district court's denial of a preliminary injunction on behalf of a photographer seeking less restrictive access to federal lands for purposes of photographing the roundup of wild horses.

  • September 17, 2010

    Urging the court not to uphold a California regulation that restricts violence in the media by banning the sale of violent video games to juveniles.

  • July 30, 2010

    Urging the D.C. Court of Appeals to overturn a prior restraint on publication of information from a publicly available court file that was supposed to be sealed.

  • July 15, 2009

    Urging the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Court of Appeals to vacate a prior restraint issued against journalist Nancy Kelsey in violation of the Tribal Constitution, the First Amendment, and the Indian Civil Rights Act.