Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and Campaign for Accountability v. Consumer Credit Research Foundation

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.

State v. Tisdale

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.

District attorney drops charges against jailed Georgia journalist, attorney

Luis Ferre Sadurni | Freedom of Information | News | July 7, 2016
July 7, 2016

Following almost two weeks of pressure from free speech groups and press coverage, a Georgia district attorney moved to drop felony charges against a newspaper publisher and his attorney earlier today.

New World Communications of Atlanta v. Ladner

February 2, 2015

In connection with a civil lawsuit filed after an accident at a veteran's parade, the Atlanta FOX 5 television station broadcast a series of news reports detailing the police investigation and indictment of the plaintiff, Shane Lardner, for lying about having a Purple Heart. Ladner sued for defamation, and FOX 5 attempted to use the Georgia anti-SLAPP law to have the suit dismissed. The trial court ruled that the anti-SLAPP law was inapplicable because the news reports did not qualify as statements "made in connection with" an official proceeding and because they were "sensationalistic." The Reporters Committee wrote an amicus brief supporting FOX 5's petition for review to the Georgia Supreme Court, arguing that the trial court applied an unduly narrow interpretation of the anti-SLAPP statute, which should cover media reports discussing lawsuits.

Judge slaps whistleblowers with $1.61 million fine for talking to media

Kimberly Chow | Newsgathering | News | January 29, 2015
January 29, 2015

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg has fined two whistleblowers in Atlanta for contacting members of the media during a five-year period while the suit was under seal.

Whistleblowers Victor Bibby and Brian Donnelly, mortgage brokers at U.S. Financial Services Inc., discussed the case confidentially with FOX investigative reporters nearly four years after they initially filed their complaint but a year before the case was unsealed. Their punishment, imposed in a January 5 order, is to pay a $1.61 million fine. The order was first reported by the Atlanta legal newspaper The Daily Report.

Judge lifts prior restraint in Georgia

Tom Isler | Prior Restraints | News | November 10, 2014
November 10, 2014

A superior court judge in Georgia reversed himself on Monday and lifted an order he had entered last week enjoining the media from broadcasting or publishing a story about witness intimidation in the ongoing criminal corruption trial about educators cheating on standardized tests in Atlanta public schools.

Last Friday, Judge Jerry Baxter signed an order preventing the media from reporting a story that a witness for the prosecution had received an anonymous threatening voice mail for testifying against a former Atlanta public school superintendent. The county district attorney sought the order because, he argued, the news report might have a chilling effect on future witnesses or the jury.

Georgia court remands decision on recording trial, citing trouble with defining 'news media'

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Secret Courts | News | June 12, 2014
June 12, 2014

In a decision on whether a student could record court proceedings, the Court of Appeals of Georgia stated this week that courts risk harming key constitutional rights by attempting to distinguish who is “legitimate ‘news media.’”

Joshua McLaurin, a student at Yale Law School, asked to record criminal proceedings in two different counties in July 2013 for a project examining the experiences of impoverished defendants in the Georgia criminal justice system.

McLaurin cited two different Georgia laws in his application: Uniform Superior Court Rule 22 and a section of the Georgia code regarding general standards for requesting permission to record court proceedings. The trial court held that Rule 22 only applies to news media, so it applied the Georgia code instead.

Death penalty case renews scrutiny of Georgia secrecy law

Amy Zhang | Secret Courts | News | July 16, 2013
July 16, 2013

A Georgia law prohibiting the release of information about the drugs used to execute the state's death row inmates may be unconstitutional, a judge indicated earlier this week.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan on Monday agreed to stay an execution for convicted prisoner Warren Lee Hill until Thursday when she hears arguments from Hill's attorneys that the law violated the Constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Media organizations asks judge to dismiss gag order imposed by prosecutors

Lilly Chapa | Secret Courts | News | April 25, 2013
April 25, 2013

Two Georgia media organizations are asking a judge to dismiss an unusual gag order placed on 35 Atlanta Public School employees charged with altering standardized tests in a widespread cheating scandal.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News (WSB-TV) filed a joint motion to lift the gag orders on those charged in the cheating scandal. District Attorney Paul Howard agreed to lower the defendants’ bail bond amounts if the defendants agreed not to talk to reporters.


August 1, 2012

Summary of statute(s): An individual may record or disclose the contents of a wire, oral or electronic communication if he or she is a party to the communication or has received prior consent from one of the parties. The state prohibits the use of cameras to observe private activities without the consent of all parties involved, and also prohibits disclosure of the contents of illegally obtained recordings. However, Georgia carves out an exception, allowing the parents of minor children to intercept private telephonic and electronic communications without consent.