Public records

National Lawyers Guild v. Hayward (Petition for Review)

November 27, 2018

The Reporters Committee and eight media organizations filed an amicus letter to the California Supreme Court in National Lawyers Guild v. City of Hayward. The letter urges the California Supreme Court to review a Court of Appeal decision allowing the City to charge nearly $3,000 for redacting police body-worn camera footage of a protest. The California Public Records Act allows government agencies to charge requesters for the costs of "extracting" a record, and the Court of Appeal erroneously equated redacting a video to extraction of a record. The letter argues that these prohibitive fees will greatly limit public access to body-worn camera footage and is contrary to the purposes and language of the CPRA.

 

In re Nat'l Opiate Prescrip. Litig.

November 13, 2018

RCFP and a coalition of 36 media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of HD Media Company and the Washington Post in In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation in the Sixth Circuit.  The brief urged the Sixth Circuit to vacate the district court's protective order, which bars hundreds of public entity plaintiffs in a multi-district litigation from disclosing key historical opiate prescription data that they received from the Drug Enforcement Administration during discovery.  In this litigation, approximately 1,300 mostly governmental entities--including at least six states and hundreds of cities, counties, and Native American tribes--have sued the pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies for their role in the national prescription opiate crisis. 

 

Sander v. State Bar of California

November 2, 2018

The Reporters Committee and 13 media organizations filed an amicus letter to the California Supreme Court in Sander v. State Bar of California.  The letter urges the California Supreme Court to review a Court of Appeal decision which held that the California State Bar was not obligated to anonymize a database concerning bar applicants in response to a California Public Records Act request from Richard Sander and the First Amendment Coalition, because the Court of Appeal held that anonymization requires creation of a new record.  The letter argues that this decision will limit public access to large government databases moving forward and is contrary to the purposes and language of the CPRA.

Florida v. Cruz (Sun Sentinel Contempt Proceeding)

August 14, 2018

The Reporters Committee and 30 news media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the Sun Sentinel and two of its reporters after the School Board of Broward County filed a petition to initiate contempt proceedings against them for publishing an article containing information from a report that the school board had released to the public. The report detailed the school system's interactions with student Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people in a Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A court's order permitted the school board to redact the report before it was released to the public, but the version of the report that the school board uploaded to its public website, allowed any member of the public to access the full report.

Better Government Association v. City of Chicago Law Department

March 9, 2018
The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of Better Government Association ("BGA") in the Supreme Court of Illinois. BGA filed an Illinois FOIA request with the City of Chicago for documents relating to the prosecution of the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. The special prosecutor in the criminal case sought a protective order "to prevent entities like the City from complying" with FOIA requests for documents relating to the prosecution. BGA's request was denied in part due to the protective order. RCFP's amicus brief argues that a protective order sought to bar dissemination of public records cannot trump an agency's duties under FOIA.

Las Vegas Review-Journal and Associated Press v. Eighth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada

February 14, 2018

A Nevada district court judge ordered the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Associated Press to refrain from reporting on and to destroy copies of an anonymized autopsy report obtained through a public records request. The news outlets filed a petition for a writ of prohibition or mandamus in the Nevada Supreme Court to dissolve the prior restraint, and the Reporters Committee, along with the Nevada Press Association, filed a proposed amicus brief in support of that petition. The brief explains the significant news value in reporting on anonymized autopsy reports and the dangerous nature of the district court's gag order, which erroneously elevates purported privacy concerns over long-established First Amendment protections. The brief also focuses on the implications of the gag order for journalists and other members of the public who request records under the Nevada Public Records Act.

 

Sander & The First Amendment Coalition v. State Bar of California et al.

January 31, 2018

The Reporters Committee and 13 media organizations filed an amicus brief in a case in the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, challenging the trial court's holding denying of a request under the California Public Records Act by a law professor and the First Amendment Coalition for a database concerning applicants to the State Bar of California. The trial court denied the request in part because it held that the processes for anonymizing the database proposed by the requesters would constitute the creation of a new record, which is not required under the CPRA. The amicus brief argues that the CPRA specifically contemplates anonymization of records and that the process of anonymization is not the same as the creation of a new record. The amicus brief further argues that the trial court gave insufficient weight to the public interest served by disclosure of the records sought by the requesters.

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.

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.

Reporters Committee prevails in Missouri execution drug secrecy case

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | July 17, 2015
Commentary
July 17, 2015

A circuit court in Missouri has ruled that the state Department of Corrections cannot withhold information about the pharmacies and laboratories that compound, test, and supply the drugs that the state uses to carry out executions.

The ruling is a rare legal victory for the public’s right to know details about the sources of such drugs amid widespread concerns over the legality of how they are obtained.

“The public has a compelling interest and a clear right to know how their government is carrying out executions,” said Katie Townsend, Litigation Director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “This ruling vindicates that right, and is an important win for the people of Missouri and the rest of the United States.”