Public records

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
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
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.”

D.C. mayor upholds denial of second request for police body camera videos

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | April 28, 2015
April 28, 2015

Washington D.C.’s Mayor Bowser has largely upheld the refusal of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to produce body camera videos in response to a D.C. Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Reporters Committee.

In its D.C. FOIA request, the Reporters Committee asked the police department for specific categories of body camera videos, including videos that have been used for training purposes, flagged for supervisory review, submitted to the D.C. Office of Police Complaints, or used in connection with criminal and civil proceedings.

Reporters Committee urges Virginia legislature to reject execution secrecy bill

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

Requesters complain of consultant's high FOIA search fees for Ferguson records

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

Multiple news media organizations have filed formal complaints with the Missouri Attorney General over the high fees charged by the city of Ferguson in response to public records requests. The complaints come after reports of journalists being asked to pay up to $2,000 in advance to search through and copy emails and text messages. Thus far, complaints have been filed by the Associated Press, CNN, St. Louis Public Radio, and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

Supreme Court allows execution without disclosure of drug information

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