Briefs & Comments

  • May 10, 2018

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in support of three reporters who moved to quash subpoenaes seeking their testimony about their observations while witnessing state executions.  The amicus brief argues that the First Amendment reporter's privilege protects journalists from being forced to give testimony about observations made during the newsgathering process.  Without such protection, a reporter's neutrality could be called into question any time he or she was compelled to give testimony that benefited a party in litigation.

     

  • April 27, 2018

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments on behalf of a coalition of news media organizations to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) in response to its draft position paper on online reputation, which argues that Canadian privacy law essentially incorporates the "right to be forgotten." RCFP's comments argue that the position paper should clarify that websites performing a journalistic function are exempt from any takedown obligations, and that OPC's all-or-northing approach in finding that search engines never perform a journalistic function (and thus are never exempt from de-indexing obligations) would have unintended consequences.

  • April 19, 2018

    RCFP and a coalition of media organizations filed an amicus brief in the Seventh Circuit in support of Courthouse News Service's efforts to require the Cook County (Illinois) Circuit Court to fulfill its First Amendment obligations related to access to newly filed civil complaints. The district court granted CNS a preliminary injunction ordering the circuit court clerk to provide contemporaneous access to the documents, and the clerk appealed the injunction. RCFP's brief argues that the First Amendment right of access requires the clerk to provide contemporaneous access to newly filed civil complaints before processing. In addition, the brief argues that timely access to civil complaints benefits the public and that CNS's profit motive and readership are irrelevant to the determination of the First Amendment right of access.

     

  • March 9, 2018
    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of Better Government Association ("BGA") in the Supreme Court of Illinois. BGA filed an Illinois FOIA request with the City of Chicago for documents relating to the prosecution of the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. The special prosecutor in the criminal case sought a protective order "to prevent entities like the City from complying" with FOIA requests for documents relating to the prosecution. BGA's request was denied in part due to the protective order. RCFP's amicus brief argues that a protective order sought to bar dissemination of public records cannot trump an agency's duties under FOIA.
  • February 23, 2018

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of the ACLU, the ACLU of the Nation's Capital, and the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISCR).  The ACLU and MFIA are seeking access to certain judicial opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).  Before the FISCR is a certified question of law from the FISC regarding whether the ACLU and MFIA have standing to bring their motion to unseal.  The amicus brief supports the ACLU and MFIA's position that they have standing to seek access to the FISC's judicial opinions and argues that parties should not have to show that the First Amendment right of access applies to a particular record or proceeding to demonstrate standing.  The amicus brief also highlights the interests of the press, which frequently bring First Amendment right of access claims, and the public interest in access to FISC opi

  • February 20, 2018

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of neither party in Breazeale et al. v. Victim Services, Inc., et al,  which is before the 9th Circuit on the appellants' petition for rehearing. The panel decision in Breazeale held that the denial of a special motion to strike under the California Anti-SLAPP Statute was not immediately appealeable because the motion was denied on the basis of the "public interest exception" to the Anti-SLAPP Statute. The amicus brief urges the Court to clarify that its holding does not apply when a special motion to strike under the Anti-SLAPP Statute is denied on grounds other than the public interest exception.  The amicus brief was drafted by attorneys at Jassy Vick Carolan LLP.

  • February 19, 2018

    The Reporters Committee joined a media coalition amicus brief in support of The Fayetteville Observer's motion to unseal a totally sealed civil case in North Carolina state court, in which everything in the case file, including the docket, identities of the parties and their counsel, and the sealing orders themselves, were under seal.  The trial court denied the motion, and the newspaper appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  The amicus brief argues that the wholesale sealing of the case violates the North Carolina and U.S. consitutions and is contrary to North Carolina precedent.  The amicus brief also argues that courts in other judisdictions have reversed similarly broad sealing orders and that the total sealing of this case undermines public confidence in the judicial system.  The brief was drafted by attorneys from Stevens Martin Vaughn & Tadych, PLLC.

  • February 14, 2018

    A Nevada district court judge ordered the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Associated Press to refrain from reporting on and to destroy copies of an anonymized autopsy report obtained through a public records request. The news outlets filed a petition for a writ of prohibition or mandamus in the Nevada Supreme Court to dissolve the prior restraint, and the Reporters Committee, along with the Nevada Press Association, filed a proposed amicus brief in support of that petition. The brief explains the significant news value in reporting on anonymized autopsy reports and the dangerous nature of the district court's gag order, which erroneously elevates purported privacy concerns over long-established First Amendment protections. The brief also focuses on the implications of the gag order for journalists and other members of the public who request records under the Nevada Public Records Act.

     

  • February 2, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed an amicus brief in support of 11 plaintiffs, several of whom are journalists, who are challenging government searches of smartphones and other electronic devices at the U.S. border without a warrant.  The amicus briefs argues that because electronic devices store enormous amounts of private information about a person's speech and associations, searching them at the border without a warrant violates travelers' First Amendment rights.  The amicus brief highlights the particular concerns of journalists, whose electronic devices contain sensitive information about their newsgathering activities that, if revealed to the government, could chill their relationships with sources and ability to report freely.

  • January 31, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and 13 media organizations filed an amicus brief in a case in the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, challenging the trial court's holding denying of a request under the California Public Records Act by a law professor and the First Amendment Coalition for a database concerning applicants to the State Bar of California. The trial court denied the request in part because it held that the processes for anonymizing the database proposed by the requesters would constitute the creation of a new record, which is not required under the CPRA. The amicus brief argues that the CPRA specifically contemplates anonymization of records and that the process of anonymization is not the same as the creation of a new record. The amicus brief further argues that the trial court gave insufficient weight to the public interest served by disclosure of the records sought by the requesters.

  • January 29, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and three media organizations filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of Georgia, challenging an intermediate appellate court's holding that all exemptions to the state's open-records law are mandatory. The brief argues, first, that decision violates the text and purpose of the Act. Second, the Court of Appeals’ interpretation would lead to untenable policy consequences, such as preventing state agencies from releasing any information if it falls into one of the exemptions. Finally, the Court of Appeals’ approach would make Georgia an outlier among the states and the federal government, leaving citizens here with far less access to government information than they would enjoy in most other jurisdictions.

  • January 24, 2018

    Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) filed a reverse-California Public Records Act (CPRA) lawsuit to block the release of records requested by the Sacramento News & Review (SN&R) related to Johnson's use of public resources for his work as president of the NCBM. Though the SN&R ultimately obtained hundreds of pages of records through the litigation, the trial court denied the paper's motion seeking attorneys' fees. SN&R appealed, arguing that it is entitled to attorneys fees under the mandatory fee-shifting provision of the CPRA. The Reporters Committee and 14 media organizations filed an amicus brief supporting SN&R's appeal of the fee denial.

  • January 19, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and 22 media organizations submitted an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of a former journalist who alleges a city and its police chief retaliated against him after he wrote a column critical of the police department. On appeal, the police chief asserted that the district court was wrong to deny him qualified immunity. The amicus brief argues that First Amendment retaliation claims are critical to journalists, who are at risk of retaliation by government officials because their reporting may be critical of government. The brief also argues that the district court correctly determined that the police chief is not entitled to qualified immunity because a campaign of harassment in retaliation for speech violates the Constitution, and the right to be free from such retaliatory harassment is clearly established.

  • January 18, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and 40 media organizations submitted an amici brief in support of Microsoft in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court addressing whether the government can use a search warrant to obtain data stored by Microsoft overseas. The brief urges the Court to consider how its ruling in this case could impact journalists, emphasizing that cloud-based products and email are critical to journalists and that effective newsgathering relies on the security of these tools. The brief also argues that allowing the U.S. government to use a warrant to obtain data stored anywhere in the world could embolden countries that are hostile toward the news media to demand access to electronic information belonging to journalists.

  • January 8, 2018

    RCFP filed an application for leave to re-file its previously accepted amicus brief in Courthouse News Service v. Yamasaki.  Courthouse News Service (CNS) filed suit against the Orange County clerk of court to challenge delays in the release of newly filed civil complaints.  RCFP filed an amicus brief on behalf of a coalition in support of CNS's motion for a preliminary injunction. Yamasaki has now filed a motion for summary judgment. RCFP's application asks the Court to consider its previously-filed amicus brief in support of CNS when determining the motion for summary judgment.