The Local Legal Initiative provides local news organizations with direct legal services to pursue enterprise and investigative stories in their communities.
In Pennsylvania, Reporters Committee attorneys helped local newsrooms reach legal settlements that improved public access to criminal court records and forced a township to train its employees on the government’s obligations under the state’s public records law.
Local Legal Initiative Attorney Paula Knudsen Burke also represented local journalists and news outlets in a number of public records lawsuits, including one case that pried loose records related to Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program.
In many cases, newsrooms represented by Burke turned legal victories into investigative stories. For example, the nonprofit Billy Penn used records obtained through litigation to expose the Philadelphia’s public transit agency’s failure to track incidents of sexual assault and harassment targeting its employees. And the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed how executives of Pennsylvania’s largest public pension fund pushed back against a whistleblower who raised serious concerns about the fund’s finances.