Government records

Reporters Committee sues University of California for access to historic government documents

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | December 9, 2014
Commentary
December 9, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has filed a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California over their refusal to grant access to important historical documents currently being held in a library at the University of California, Berkeley. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of both the Reporters Committee and Professor Stephen Bloom, a journalist, author, and professor of journalism at the University of Iowa who has written extensively about California’s history.

Supreme Court allows execution without disclosure of drug information

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Freedom of Information | News | July 23, 2014
News
July 23, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court prevented an Arizona death row inmate from delaying his execution date in order to receive information on the drugs to be used in his execution.

The denial overturns a decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco (9th Cir.) that ruled capital prisoner Joseph Wood’s requests for information on the drugs the state planned to use to execute him had sufficient merit to delay his execution, scheduled for Wednesday.

The state of Arizona asked the full Ninth Circuit court to review the panel's decision, but the circuit court refused Monday to hear it in front of its full 11-judge panel. The state then took its appeal to the Supreme Court, which also refused to hear the appeal but did lift the Ninth Circuit stay to allow Wood’s execution to go forward.

Cherokee Council amends nation's FOI law

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Freedom of Information | News | June 18, 2014
News
June 18, 2014

The Cherokee Nation Council passed an amendment to its freedom of information law that will extend the response time to records requests about the tribe’s government.

The Freedom of Information Act amendment passed 10-6 Monday night with one councilor not in attendance, after the council also passed an amendment to its Governmental Records Act, which provides government officials access to records.

The amendment creates an information officer that will receive all records requests and will be independent of any office within the government. Under the old act, the attorney general handled records requests from the press and public.

Appeals court overturns disclosure of government surveillance materials in suspected terrorist's trial

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Secret Courts | News | June 17, 2014
News
June 17, 2014

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago (7th Cir.) reversed a trial court ruling that would have reportedly been the first case in which defense attorneys obtained access to government surveillance court materials.

The three-judge panel sided with the government Monday, stating that the disclosure of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court records to the attorneys of Adel Daoud would pose a threat to national security. Daoud was arrested in 2012 for attempting to bomb a Chicago bar in what turned out to be a sting operation.

The court submitted its public opinion with a sealed, classified opinion that provides more explanation.

Judge Richard Posner wrote that the district court erred in thinking the defense attorneys’ security clearances entitled them access to the materials, which he believed could pose a threat to national security.

Washington State Supreme Court grants ABC affiliate access to dashcam videos

Bradleigh Chance | Freedom of Information | News | June 13, 2014
News
June 13, 2014

After a drawn out legal battle over access to police car dashcam videos between TV station KOMO and the Seattle Police Department, the local news source received a favorable opinion from the Washington State Supreme Court. The court concluded the police should have released videos in response to two public records requests made by KOMO reporter Tracy Vedder.

KOMO sued for access when the Department of Justice was investigating the Seattle Police Department for use of excessive force.

Calif. Supreme Court rules names of officers involved in on-duty shootings are public record

Bradleigh Chance | Freedom of Information | News | May 30, 2014
News
May 30, 2014

The Supreme Court of California this week upheld a lower court ruling requiring a police department to release the names of officers involved in on-duty shootings.

In December 2010, Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Winton asked the Long Beach City Attorney‘s Office for the names of the two police officers who shot and killed a man in Los Angeles.

The officers were responding to a resident’s tip about an intoxicated man carrying a six-shooter though the neighborhood. When they arrived on the scene, they found 35-year-old Douglas Zerby. According to the officers, Zerby held up an object resembling a gun and the two of them reacted by firing shots and killing him. When the officers approached his body, they could see that the object Zerby was holding was actually a garden hose with a pistol grip spray nozzle.

Cherokee Nation council considers changes to FOI law

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Freedom of Information | News | May 29, 2014
News
May 29, 2014

The Rules Committee of the Cherokee Nation’s tribal council voted 14-3 Wednesday in favor of changes to the tribe’s Freedom of Information Act, extending the government’s records request response time and centralizing requests in a single independent ombudsman.

Cherokee Phoenix photo by Will Chavez

Protesters gather outside a meeting where a legislative committee was considering restrictive amendments to the open records laws of the Cherokee Nation.

Wisconsin can consider requesters' intent, court says

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | May 12, 2014
News
May 12, 2014

A Wisconsin appeals court has ruled that state agencies may consider a requester's intent before releasing public records under the state's freedom of information law.

Previously, Wisconsin, like most states, did not require a public record requester to provide their name or the reason for seeking information.

The court last week was considering a case in which a man requested the employment records of a public school employee he was suspected of abusing. The Milwaukee School Board refused to release the information to that requester, citing a previous restraining order against the man and concerns for the employee's safety.

Intelligence agencies defend new review policy

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | May 12, 2014
News
May 12, 2014

Under increasing public scrutiny over a new pre-publication review policy, the Office of the Director National Intelligence released a statement claiming the media has "misconstrued" the policy, but open government advocates aren't so sure.

In April, DNI put in place a policy that, among other things, prohibits current and former ODNI personnel from citing in books and publications to information that has been leaked to the public.

"The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security," the policy states.

The policy goes beyond prohibiting officials from releasing classified information and extends the prohibition even to citing news reports about leaked information.

George W. Bush directs relatively broad release of presidential records

Michael Rooney | Freedom of Information | News | April 29, 2014
News
April 29, 2014

Former President George W. Bush has instructed the National Archives to release nine categories of documents from his presidency to the public, a much broader directive than expected.

POLITICO reported last week that Bush signed a letter to the Archives three years ago allowing the keeper of presidential records to release, among other things, informational and factual memoranda, talking points on policy decisions, and recommendations about whether to sign legislation. POLITICO obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"The relatively expansive directive stands in contrast to Bush’s approach to the public’s right to know while he was in office," POLITICO noted.