Public officials

Recent settlement in suit over arrest for recording police follows growing trend

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Newsgathering | News | June 16, 2014
News
June 16, 2014

The town of Weare, New Hampshire, settled a lawsuit last week for $57,500 with a woman arrested for videotaping a police officer, adding to the growing list of settlements stemming from police officers’ restriction of video and audio recordings in public places.

In Gericke v. Begin, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) upheld a lower court opinion that Carla Gericke was within her First Amendment rights to record a police officer at a traffic stop.

Following that opinion, instead of choosing to continue with the trial, Weare settled the case with Gericke.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said most of the cases in which citizens sue police for unlawfully arresting them or confiscating their cameras reach a settlement, although this settlement was low in comparison to others he has noticed.

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.

First Circuit upholds right to record traffic stops

Kevin Delaney | Newsgathering | News | May 27, 2014
News
May 27, 2014

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) recognized last week a First Amendment right to video record a traffic stop that occurs in a public place. The court’s decision allows Carla Gericke to continue a civil rights lawsuit she brought against a New Hampshire police department.

In March of 2010, New Hampshire police charged Gericke with violating a state law that prohibits the unlawful interception of oral communications after Gericke appeared to use her video camera to capture a late-night traffic stop.

Even though prosecutors declined to pursue the charges, Gericke brought a suit claiming her First Amendment right to free expression was violated when the police charged her with illegal wiretapping in response to her decision to videotape the stop.

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.

Ninth Circuit: Bloggers, public have same defamation protections as 'institutional press' on matters of public concern

Cindy Gierhart | Libel | News | January 17, 2014
News
January 17, 2014

The Ninth Circuit ruled today in Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox that bloggers -- and other members of the public -- are governed by the same decades-old defamation jurisprudence as the "institutional press” when speaking about matters of public concern.

Crystal Cox wrote blog posts alleging a bankruptcy trustee and his company committed fraud, corruption, and money-laundering. The trustee, Kevin Padrick, and company, Obsidian Finance Group, sued for defamation.

One question before the court was whether the New York Times v. Sullivan and Gertz v. Robert Welch line of cases applied to Cox, as a blogger, or whether the rules set forth under those cases only applied to the “institutional press.”

New Jersey blogger considered a journalist under state Shield Law

Lilly Chapa | Reporter's Privilege | News | April 16, 2013
News
April 16, 2013

A New Jersey blogger qualifies for protection under the state’s shield law and does not have to reveal the names of government officials she accused of wrongdoing, a judge ruled.

Judge rules D.C. detective was wrongly punished for speaking to reporter

Lilly Chapa | Newsgathering | News | February 14, 2013
News
February 14, 2013

A Washington, D.C., judge found that the Metropolitan Police Department’s media policy is constitutional, but how the department enforced it against a detective who spoke out against it to a newspaper in 2009 was unlawful.

District Judge James Boasberg ruled that Detective William Hawkins did not break department rules when he talked to a Washington Post reporter because he spoke as a representative of a police union and not a member of the department.

Alaska Supreme Court rules private e-mail messages are public records

Lilly Chapa | Freedom of Information | News | October 15, 2012
News
October 15, 2012

An Alaska Supreme Court decision makes private e-mail messages containing government business subject to the state Public Records Act but also makes obtaining those records difficult.

Friday's ruling held that the state Public Records Act does not prohibit public officials from conducting government business through their private e-mail accounts, potentially posing difficulties for people seeking to access those messages in the future, Alaska media lawyer D. John McKay said in an interview.

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules public should not be charged cost to redact public records

Raymond Baldino | Freedom of Information | News | June 28, 2012
News
June 28, 2012

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled yesterday that authorities cannot charge the public for redaction costs under its public records law.

The decision rejected an attempt by the City of Milwaukee Police Department to charge redaction costs for providing records in two requests filed by reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Rhode Island revamps public records law to be more requestor-friendly

Raymond Baldino | Freedom of Information | News | June 27, 2012
News
June 27, 2012

Rhode Island's governor signed into law yesterday what open records advocates have called the first major revisions in 14 years to its Access to Public Records Act -- changes that will both make more records available and give requestors more rights under the act.