Briefs & Comments

  • July 17, 2017

    After the Los Angeles Times filed a California Public Records Act ("CPRA") request for a report regarding an officer-involved shooting, the police officers' union filed a reverse-CPRA lawsuit to prevent the release of the report. Despite obtaining the release of almost the entirety of the report, the Times was awarded only a fraction of its attorneys' fees. The newspaper appealed to the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District. RCFP, CNPA, and 14 other media organizations argued that reverse-CPRA lawsuits are contrary to both the language and intent of the CPRA and undermine the CPRA's fundamental purpose to provide public access to government records. However, even assuming that reverse-CPRA actions should be permitted in certain circumstances, requesters must be afforded the same protections in reverse-CPRA actions that they are entitled to in any other action brought under the CPRA.

  • July 7, 2017

    Courthouse News Service (CNS) challenged the policy of the Ventura County state court clerk of delaying disclosure of unlimited civil complaints to the public. CNS argued that it has a constitutional right to timely access the complaints that attaches immediately upon filing. After the lower court held that CNS had a right of timely access to the civil complaints, Planet appealed the decision. The Reporters Committee and 27 other media organizations argued that prompt access to civil complaints benefits the public because timeliness affects newsworthiness, prompt access promotes more accurate reporting, and prompt access promotes public understanding of the matters occupying the courts' dockets.

  • June 13, 2017

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote to the Department of Justice's Inspector General to express our concern about United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policies and practices that affect journalists at the border. The Office of the Inspector General had earlier announced that it is looking into border inspection procedures.

  • May 16, 2017

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter on behalf of a coalition of national media organizations objecting to the arrest of reporter Dan Heyman in the West Virginia capitol, for shouting questions to Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway and HHS Secretary Tom Price during a visit.

  • May 9, 2017

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the United Kingdom's Data Protection Team on the "right to be forgotten," which will be implemented as part of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). RCFP writes that the regulation's "erasure" obligation should not be extended to Online Service Providers such as Facebook or Twitter, or it will have profound negative effects on the news media and freedom of expression online. We also argued that an exception for "journalistic purposes" must be applied broadly to ensure protection under international principles protecting the right to information and freedom of expression.

  • May 6, 2017

    The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news media organizations submitted comments to the Los Angeles Police Commission concerning the development of a policy for releasing body-worn camera (BWC or bodycam) videos of "critical incidents," such as such as when an individual dies in police custody. The comments highlighted the importance of compliance with the California Public Records Act (CPRA), and urged videos of critical incidents to be proactively released to the press and the public.

  • April 17, 2017

    In an appeal to the California Supreme Court, Yelp challenged a decision finding that it had to obey an injunction requiring the removal of content that had been adjudicated as libelous. Yelp had argued that it should not be subject to the order since it did not have an opportunity to defend the posts. On appeal, amici emphasized that the implications of that ruling extend beyond Yelp and that the decisions of the trial court and the Court of Appeal undermine the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. If the Court of Appeal's decision is permitted to stand, Internet platforms that provide space for comment and discussion, like many news media websites, will effectively see their First Amendment interests in their forums curtailed without an opportunity to object, undermining the vitality of such forums as a place for the public to debate issues.

  • 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.