Briefs & Comments

  • 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.

  • December 21, 2017

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia to express its concern regarding statements made during the closing arguments in the prosecution of Alexei Wood.  Wood live-streamed the January 20, 2017 Inauguration Day protest in Washington, DC, and was arrested and charged with various crimes stemming from his presence at the protest.  He was acquitted on December 21, 2017.  During closing arguments, the Assistant United States Attorney argued that Wood could not be an "up-and-coming journalist" because of Wood's familiarity with certain terms like "black bloc" and "kettle" and commented on Wood's "fake press badge."  The Reporters Committee's letter emphasized that newsgatherers must be familiar with the subject matter they cover, including its terminology, and that reporters are not required to have a press pass to cover a protest on public streets.

  • December 18, 2017

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the presiding judge in State v. Tisdale, regarding the sentencing of a Georgia journalist, Nydia Tisdale, who was convicted on a misdemeanor obstruction charge related to her arrest while filming a political rally in 2014. The letter, submitted for the sentencing hearing, argued that Tisdale should be given leniency because she was engaged in newsgathering at the time of the arrest and because she performs a valuable service to the public.

  • December 15, 2017
    The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court regarding the implementation of policies governing electronic access to court records. The comments expressed concerns with recommendations that electronic access by the public be limited to only court-generated documents, and urged the Court to permit electronic access by the public to all judicial records filed in Maine Courts.
  • December 6, 2017

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in the Illinois Supreme Court in a state Freedom of Information Act case concerning the retroactive application of a new exemption enacted during the pendency of the case. The brief argues that (1) a rule permitting the retroactive application of new FOIA exemptions would undermine the well-established public policy of Illinois in favor of transparency, and (2) given the important interests at stake the Court should adopt a clear-statement rule for all amendments to FOIA.

  • December 5, 2017

    The Reporters Committee and 18 other media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of reporter Jamie Kalven, who was subpoenaed to testify in Illinois v. Van Dyke. Van Dyke is the Chicago police officer on trial for murder in the death of Laquan McDonald, an African American teenager. Kalven's reporting revealed facts about the shooting that contradicted the official police account and ultimately led to the release of a police video of the incident and Van Dyke's prosecution. The brief emphasizes the importance of the reporter's privilege and argues that Kalven is protected by the Illinois Reporter's Privilege Act.

  • November 30, 2017

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the Eastern District of Texas regarding proposed local rule amendments in General Order 17-24.  The Reporters Committee commented on proposed Local Rule CV-5(a)(7)(E), concerning procedures for sealing of judicial records.  The comments highlighted the strong presumptions of public access to court records under the First Amendment and common law.  The comments urged the Court to revise its proposed rule to make clear that parties who wish to file judicial records under seal must file a motion to seal in all circumstances and that judicial records cannot be filed under seal absent a court order that makes specific findings that the presumptions of access have been overcome.

  • November 29, 2017

    The Reporters Committee, on behalf of a coalition of 24 media organizations, filed a Statement in the Court of Justice of the European Union, which is considering a request for a preliminary ruling lodged by the French high court in Google v. CNIL.  The referred case concerns Google's challenge to an order issued by the French data protection authority requiring Google to delist certain articles from its search results on Google domains worldwide.  The coalition argued that Google should not be required to delist search results globally, and that global application of the "right to be forgotten" is incompatible with fundamental rights and freedoms and international law. The coalition brief was written with attorneys from WilmerHale. The coalition's brief is also available in the as-filed French version.

  • October 19, 2017

    The Reporters Committee and 33 newsmedia organizations sent a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in support of Bill No. A2750A. The bill would amend New York's Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") to strengthen its fee-recovery provision.

  • October 16, 2017

    RCFP filed an amicus brief in the District of Puerto Rico in support of Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI), an investigative journalism organization. CPI brought suit seeking records and information from the government oversight board created by Congress to manage the territory's finances after Puerto Rico's financial crisis last year. The board moved to dismiss, arguing that the federal statute creating the board supersedes Puerto Rico's public records laws. RCFP's amicus brief argues that the statute does not deprive Puerto Ricans of their rights of access and that the board's motion to dismiss should be denied.

  • October 12, 2017

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a coalition of 20 media organizations submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, supporting unknown plaintiff's petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc. The brief responds to a panel decision that would allow the government to prohibit wire or electronic communication service providers from disclosing information about National Security Letters (NSLs). The brief argues that this nondisclosure requirement is a prior restraint and should be subject to the most exacting scrutiny under the Supreme Court's precedent in the Pentagon Papers case.