Briefs & Comments

  • August 20, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and 11 media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is seeking juvenile autopsy records from the Clark County Office of the Coroner under the Nevada Public Records Act so that it may report on patterns of fatal abuse or neglect of children. The Las Vegas Review-Journal prevailed below, and the Office of the Coroner appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, arguing that the records are not available under the NPRA.  The amicus brief highlights the important reporting that has been done using autopsy reports, including stories about the health and safety of children, official misconduct, occupational health, and government fraud.  The amicus brief argues that the position of the Office of the Coroner, if adopted, would impede news reporting on matters of public concern.

  • August 14, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and 30 news media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the Sun Sentinel and two of its reporters after the School Board of Broward County filed a petition to initiate contempt proceedings against them for publishing an article containing information from a report that the school board had released to the public. The report detailed the school system's interactions with student Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people in a Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A court's order permitted the school board to redact the report before it was released to the public, but the version of the report that the school board uploaded to its public website, allowed any member of the public to access the full report.

  • August 8, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and 35 media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of Intervenor-Appellee KQED, Inc., which is seeking access to a video recording of the 2010 trial before the Northern District of California over the constitutionality of Proposition 8.  The district court ordered that the videotape recordings could be released in 2020, unless, at that time, the proponents of sealing can show a compelling reason, narrowly-tailored, that would justify keeping them under seal.  The proponents appealed to the 9th Circuit.

  • August 6, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and 11 media organizations filed an amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit in In re Murphy-Brown. The brief supports Murphy-Brown's mandamus petition to vacate a gag order issued by the district court in 26 related nuisance lawsuits against hog farms run by Murphy-Brown. The district court stated that the gag order will stay in effect for the duration of these 26 cases--which are expected to last several years--and applies to hundreds of parties, counsel, court personnel, and even "potential" witnesses, who have not yet been identified or notified.  The brief argues that this broad gag order will chill newsgathering about these cases, which are of significant public concern; that it is an unconstitutional prior restraint; and that it is particularly offensive to the First Amendment in the civil context where courts are less likely to uphold gag orders.

     

  • July 30, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and five media organizations filed an amicus brief in the California Court of Appeal in support of American Media, Inc. and the other respondents in a case brought by Richard Simmons. Simmons claimed that the respondents defamed him by publishing an article that falsely identified him as transgender. The trial court held that identifying someone as transgender is not defamatory per se, and Simmons appealed.

  • July 25, 2018

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments on proposed updates to the United States Department of Agriculture's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. The comments recommend that USDA (1) update its definition of "representatives of the news media" to comport with the 2007 FOIA amendments, and (2) add language implementing the foreseeable harm standard introduced in the 2016 FOIA amendments.  

  • July 16, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and a coalition of 59 media organizations submitted an amicus letter in support of the Los Angeles Times in its challenge to a prior restraint issued by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The Los Angeles Times published a story about a plea agreement that it obtained from the PACER system.  The plea agreement was supposed to be sealed and had apparently been filed publicly by mistake.  The district court granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Los Angeles Times from publishing information about the plea agreement and ordered the removal of any article about the plea agreement that had already been published before the court issued its order. The Los Angeles Times filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the 9th Circuit.

  • June 7, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news organizations filed a letter in the Michael Cohen search warrant case in the Southern District of New York.  The letter objects to a motion by Cohen and intervenors President Donald Trump and The Trump Organization to file their objections to a special master's recommendations under seal and ex parte.  The media coalition agreed with the federal prosecutor in the case that Cohen and the intervenors should be permitted to redact and file under seal only those portions of their submissions that would reveal the substance of documents over which they continue to assert attorney-client privilege and work product privilege.  The letter also stresses the importance of protecting the public's right of access in this high profile case.

  • June 6, 2018

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming supporting a group of plaintiffs challenging a pair of state statutes that heighten criminal and civil penalties on an individual who crosses private land without permission to access adjacent or proximate land where he collects resource data, with collection of resource data defined as (1) “to take a sample of material” or “acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form”; and (2) “recording . . . a legal description or geographical coordinates of the location of the collection.”  Wyo. Stat.

  • May 29, 2018
    The Reporters Committee and a media coalition filed an amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting The Baltimore Brew, an online media outlet.  The news organization is challenging a practice of the Baltimore Police Department of requiring “non-disparagement” clauses in all settlements involving claims of police misconduct.  The district court concluded that the Baltimore Brew did not have standing to challenge that practice.  The Reporters Committee’s amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit argues that the Baltimore Brew, under longstanding constitutional principles, does have standing to challenge the City’s practice of imposing what are effectively gag orders on victims of police misconduct who would otherwise publicly share their stories, and highlights the strong public policy interest in favor of public access to settlement agreements entered into by public entities.
  • May 21, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and a media coalition filed an amicus brief in the North Carolina Court of Appeals in support of the News & Observer's appeal of a $6 million libel verdict. RCFP's brief focuses on the application of the actual malice standard, arguing that requiring proof of actual malice is essential to protecting First Amendment rights and preventing a chilling effect on speech on matters of public concern. The brief also argues that the plaintiff, a public official, did not meet the high burden of proving actual malice by clear and convincing evidence.

  • 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.