Briefs & Comments

  • April 14, 2017

    Petitioners Talib Abdur-Rashid, an Imam at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, and Samir Hashmi, student and former treasurer of a Muslim Student Association, both sought records pertaining to the NYPD's alleged surveillance of them and their organizations. For both records requests, the NYPD issued Glomar-like denials, stating that they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of such records. After appeals, the Appellate Division dismissed both petitions, allowing the use of the Glomar doctrine for state records requests. An appeal to the New York Court of Appeals followed. In an amicus brief in support of the petitioners, we argued that use of the Glomar response, a federal, judicial doctrine developed to protect national security interests, should not apply at the state level and would greatly limit the act's effectiveness as a tool for keeping the public informed about the government.

  • April 12, 2017

    Courthouse News Service (CNS) challenged the policy of the Orange County court clerk of "processing" unlimited civil complaints before releasing them to the public. CNS argued that it has a constitutional right to timely access the complaints prior to processing. The court tentatively denied CNS's request to enjoin the clerk's delays and asked for further briefing on issues including CNS's business model, such as its subscribers and profits. The Reporters Committee and 13 other media organizations argued that prompt access to civil complaints before processing benefits the public because timeliness affects newsworthiness, promotes more accurate reporting, and promotes public understanding of the matters occupying the courts' dockets. The amici also argued that a news organization's for-profit status does not change the fundamental importance of the First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings and records.

  • April 10, 2017

    Petitioners seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court of dismissal of their civil rights suit concerning arrests of protesters during an Occupy Wall Street protest, arguing that they have a right to notice before being arrested for participation in a lawful protest. Attorneys for David Wright Tremaine wrote a brief on our behalf arguing that a lack of notice before mass arrests also interferes with reporters’ rights while covering newsworthy events.

  • April 4, 2017

    The Reporters Committee initially filed an amicus brief before the Appellate Division, Third Department in support if Lifetime Entertainment's challenge to a misappropriation suit over its program about convicted murder defendant Christopher Porco. The Supreme Court (trial court) had dismissed the case under the newsworthiness exception to New York Civil Rights Law Section 51. The Appellate Division, Third Department overturned the order dismissing the case, finding that one letter telling Porco's mother that she would be able to express her feelings about the murder in a separate "non-fictional program" is sufficient proof of substantial fictionalization to withstand a motion to dismiss, and thus negates the newsworthiness exception. This amicus brief supporting Lifetime's motion for permission to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals, and highlights why allowing the Third Department's decision to stand would affect the news media.

  • April 3, 2017

    Defendant-Appellee James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, And Endless War, a political critique about the United States government’s response to the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. Plaintiff-Appellant Dennis Montgomery sued Risen and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing for statements made about him in the book, which suggest he is a "con artist" and "fake" who perpetuated “one of the most elaborate and dangerous hoaxes in American history” by convincing the government he developed software that could track hidden messages from terrorists in Al Jazeera broadcasts. Montgomery lost on summary judgment after the court found that he was a limited purpose public figure and that most of the statements at issue in the case amounted to opinion that is not actionable under the First Amendment.

  • March 6, 2017

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the Department of Justice on proposed revisions to its Freedom of Information Act regulations. We recommended that all components of the DOJ should accept FOIA requests via email, and that the Office of Information Policy should accept administrative appeals submitted via email. 

  • March 6, 2017

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in this Supreme Court case to underscore the importance of the First Amendment right of access to jury selection proceedings, known as voir dire. The case involves an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, where the defendant's counsel failed to object to closure of voir dire, a structural error under the Sixth Amendment. Our brief argued that prejudice should be presumed because denying the public access to jury selection is a fundamental violation of a First Amendment right.

  • February 27, 2017

    The Reporters Committee, joined by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, wrote to the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., in support of Aaron Cantú, the one remaining journalist still facing charges related to the protests on Inauguration Day. The letter questions why charges are still pending and why a journalist faces indictment when it appears he was covering the protests at the time of his arrest.

  • February 27, 2017

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments regarding a proposed rule promulgated by the Office of Government Information Services ("OGIS"). The comments recommend that OGIS expand the scope of the proposed rule to cover all of its statutory functions, and remove secrecy and confidentiality requirements in the proposed rule regarding mediation services. 

  • February 27, 2017

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments on proposed regulations issued by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) on its mediation program. The comments argued that (1) the scope of the proposed rule issued by OGIS was inadequate, and should be revised to cover all of its activities, and (2) that the proposed rule contained unwarranted and unacceptable confidentiality provisions that should be removed.

  • February 22, 2017

    John Sepulvado, a journalist formerly with Oregon Public Broadcasting, was subpoenaed to testify about his interviews with participants in the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. In support of Sepulvado's motion to quash the subpoena, the Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in Portland, Ore., stressing the importance of recognizing a reporter's privilege and arguing that compelled testimony compromises the independence of the news media.

  • February 7, 2017

    A Gizmodo Media Group attorney was denied access to a court hearing and filings in O'Reilly v. McPhilmy (involving a fraud action brought by Bill O'Reilly against his ex-wife tied to their divorce and custody proceedings). The court sealed the records and closed the courtroom without making the necessary findings on the record. Gizmodo Media sought an appellate order for the immediate release of the transcript from the hearing that was closed. The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief agreeing with Gizmodo that closing the doors to the court and maintaining a seal on the materials at issue here without any written findings violated both the First Amendment and New York’s statutory right of access.

  • January 30, 2017

    John D’Anna, a reporter for The Arizona Republic, wrote a story several years ago based upon two interviews he had conducted with Father Joseph Terra, a victim of aggravated assault. D’Anna received a subpoena from the criminal defendant, requiring D’Anna to appear in court and produce all notes and materials related to the interview. D’Anna and Phoenix Newspapers, Inc. (“PNI”) filed a motion to quash the subpoena. The trial court denied PNI’s motion to quash, but the Arizona Court of Appeals overturned the trial court’s decision, finding that reporters have a First Amendment qualified privilege against the compelled disclosure of information obtained during newsgathering. The Arizona Supreme Court then accepted review.

  • January 24, 2017

    John and Jane Steinmetz filed a defamation lawsuit against a landscaping design company, after an argument following a government body's rejection of the Steinmetz's construction plans. The defendant moved to dismiss under the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP statute, but the plaintiffs argued that the statute did not apply in federal court and was an unconstitutional denial of a jury trial under the 7th Amendment. The district court dismissed the suit. On appeal, the Reporters Committee and Harvard Law School's Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief in the First Circuit. The brief focuses on the history and public policy of anti-SLAPP legislation and how these statutes are necessary for a healthy press.

  • December 28, 2016

    The Detroit Free Press sought to obtain the booking photos of federal indictees who had been publiicly named and had appeared in open court through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The U.S. Marshals Service denied the request, citing Exemption 7(C) of FOIA. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the Detroit Free Press. On appeal before the entire circuit court, the Sixth Circuit held that individuals maintain a "non-trival privacy interest" in booking photos. In response, the Detroit Free Press has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review. In support of the petition, the Reporters Committee argues that the booking photos of federal indictees do not implicate any cognizable privacy interests under the Constitution or the common law and should not be exempt from FOIA under Exemption 7(C).