Open records

New D.C. bodycam policies too restrictive, critics testify

Soo Rin Kim | Freedom of Information | News | October 29, 2015
News
October 29, 2015

Open-government advocates warned District of Columbia officials last week that exemption of all police body-worn camera footage showing "assaults" will undermine the very purpose of the program, as will other provisions designed to delay or deny the release of footage to the public.

The discussion came at a D.C. Council committee's public hearing to discuss three proposed amendments regarding the Metropolitan Police Department’s bodycam program.

The debate centered on how to balance transparency and privacy concerns and whether police body-worn camera recordings should be granted special treatment outside the existing D.C. Freedom of Information Act.

“It is our view that body camera footage is just another public record in simply different format,” said Rebecca Snyder, the President of Maryland, Delaware and D.C. Press Association President.

State legislatures seek to exempt police body camera footage from open records laws

Freedom of Information | Commentary | April 1, 2015
Commentary
April 1, 2015

Hannah Bloch-Wehba and Adam Marshall

Dozens of state legislatures across the United States are considering legislation that would exempt footage from police body-worn cameras, or "bodycams," from disclosure under state open records laws, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has learned. Though the new technology is supposed to enhance transparency and accountability, the proposed measures may actually increase secrecy.

Reporters Committee urges Virginia legislature to reject execution secrecy bill

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | February 12, 2015
Commentary
February 12, 2015

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has sent a letter to the Virginia House of Delegates urging them to reject Senate Bill 1393, which would exempt crucial information on the drugs used in executions, as well as the pharmacies that produce them and any investigations into those pharmacies, from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Virginia FOIA). The bill passed the Virginia Senate Tuesday by a vote of 23 to 14.

FOIA Improvement Act unanimously passes Senate, heads to House

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

After a last minute hold was released, the Senate unanimously passed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 yesterday. The Act, which strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), will now head to the House for its approval.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) lifted his hold on the bill late in the day on Monday, allowing the bill to proceed. When asked about the reasons for his delay, the Senator rather mysteriously said, “it’s sort of the internal workings of the Senate.” Lifting the hold allowed Sen. Leahy to go to the floor and secure the unanimous consent of the Senate.

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.

Important FOIA reform bill passes Senate Judiciary Committee, but is being held up by one senator

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | December 4, 2014
Commentary
December 4, 2014

Update: as of the end of the day on Dec. 4, Senator Coburn has reportedly lifted his hold on the bill, although it is now being reported that Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) is holding it up.

The Senate is poised to take action on the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, which would make great improvements to the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but the bill is inexplicably being held up by a single senator.

Reporters Committee Joins Open Government Coalition Urging President Obama to Clarify Administration's Position on FOIA Reform

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | News | October 24, 2014
News
October 24, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has joined a letter sent by 50 transparency and open government organizations to President Obama asking for his position on legislative reform to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Citing the President’s day-one commitment to transparency, the letter points out that there remain “many challenges in fulfilling” that goal. “FOIA remains one of the most effective tools for the public to know what its government is up to,” the letter states, but “changing agency practices under that statute to meet your transparency goals has been especially challenging.”

Accordingly, the letter identifies six core components of FOIA reform that must be legislatively mandated to ensure realization of the President’s stated open government goals:

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.

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.