Briefs & Comments

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • January 24, 2018

    Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) filed a reverse-California Public Records Act (CPRA) lawsuit to block the release of records requested by the Sacramento News & Review (SN&R) related to Johnson's use of public resources for his work as president of the NCBM. Though the SN&R ultimately obtained hundreds of pages of records through the litigation, the trial court denied the paper's motion seeking attorneys' fees. SN&R appealed, arguing that it is entitled to attorneys fees under the mandatory fee-shifting provision of the CPRA. The Reporters Committee and 14 media organizations filed an amicus brief supporting SN&R's appeal of the fee denial.

  • December 6, 2017

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in the Illinois Supreme Court in a state Freedom of Information Act case concerning the retroactive application of a new exemption enacted during the pendency of the case. The brief argues that (1) a rule permitting the retroactive application of new FOIA exemptions would undermine the well-established public policy of Illinois in favor of transparency, and (2) given the important interests at stake the Court should adopt a clear-statement rule for all amendments to FOIA.

  • October 19, 2017

    The Reporters Committee and 33 newsmedia organizations sent a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in support of Bill No. A2750A. The bill would amend New York's Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") to strengthen its fee-recovery provision.

  • October 16, 2017

    RCFP filed an amicus brief in the District of Puerto Rico in support of Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI), an investigative journalism organization. CPI brought suit seeking records and information from the government oversight board created by Congress to manage the territory's finances after Puerto Rico's financial crisis last year. The board moved to dismiss, arguing that the federal statute creating the board supersedes Puerto Rico's public records laws. RCFP's amicus brief argues that the statute does not deprive Puerto Ricans of their rights of access and that the board's motion to dismiss should be denied.

  • July 17, 2017

    After the Los Angeles Times filed a California Public Records Act ("CPRA") request for a report regarding an officer-involved shooting, the police officers' union filed a reverse-CPRA lawsuit to prevent the release of the report. Despite obtaining the release of almost the entirety of the report, the Times was awarded only a fraction of its attorneys' fees. The newspaper appealed to the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District. RCFP, CNPA, and 14 other media organizations argued that reverse-CPRA lawsuits are contrary to both the language and intent of the CPRA and undermine the CPRA's fundamental purpose to provide public access to government records. However, even assuming that reverse-CPRA actions should be permitted in certain circumstances, requesters must be afforded the same protections in reverse-CPRA actions that they are entitled to in any other action brought under the CPRA.

  • May 6, 2017

    The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news media organizations submitted comments to the Los Angeles Police Commission concerning the development of a policy for releasing body-worn camera (BWC or bodycam) videos of "critical incidents," such as such as when an individual dies in police custody. The comments highlighted the importance of compliance with the California Public Records Act (CPRA), and urged videos of critical incidents to be proactively released to the press and the public.

  • April 14, 2017

    Petitioners Talib Abdur-Rashid, an Imam at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, and Samir Hashmi, student and former treasurer of a Muslim Student Association, both sought records pertaining to the NYPD's alleged surveillance of them and their organizations. For both records requests, the NYPD issued Glomar-like denials, stating that they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of such records. After appeals, the Appellate Division dismissed both petitions, allowing the use of the Glomar doctrine for state records requests. An appeal to the New York Court of Appeals followed. In an amicus brief in support of the petitioners, we argued that use of the Glomar response, a federal, judicial doctrine developed to protect national security interests, should not apply at the state level and would greatly limit the act's effectiveness as a tool for keeping the public informed about the government.

  • March 6, 2017

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the Department of Justice on proposed revisions to its Freedom of Information Act regulations. We recommended that all components of the DOJ should accept FOIA requests via email, and that the Office of Information Policy should accept administrative appeals submitted via email. 

  • February 27, 2017

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments regarding a proposed rule promulgated by the Office of Government Information Services ("OGIS"). The comments recommend that OGIS expand the scope of the proposed rule to cover all of its statutory functions, and remove secrecy and confidentiality requirements in the proposed rule regarding mediation services. 

  • February 27, 2017

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments on proposed regulations issued by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) on its mediation program. The comments argued that (1) the scope of the proposed rule issued by OGIS was inadequate, and should be revised to cover all of its activities, and (2) that the proposed rule contained unwarranted and unacceptable confidentiality provisions that should be removed.

  • December 28, 2016

    The Detroit Free Press sought to obtain the booking photos of federal indictees who had been publiicly named and had appeared in open court through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The U.S. Marshals Service denied the request, citing Exemption 7(C) of FOIA. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the Detroit Free Press. On appeal before the entire circuit court, the Sixth Circuit held that individuals maintain a "non-trival privacy interest" in booking photos. In response, the Detroit Free Press has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review. In support of the petition, the Reporters Committee argues that the booking photos of federal indictees do not implicate any cognizable privacy interests under the Constitution or the common law and should not be exempt from FOIA under Exemption 7(C).

  • December 22, 2016

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments to the Department of Justice regarding its implementation of a "Release to One, Release to All" policy for the federal Freedom of Information Act. The comments were based on an RCFP survey of journalists concerning various aspects of posting records responsive to FOIA requests online.