Briefs & Comments

  • 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.

     

  • November 13, 2018

    The Reporters Committee filed comments on proposed updates to the Food and Drug Administration's ("FDA") regulations implmenting the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"). RCFP's comments recommend that the FDA modify the proposed rule to address FOIA's foreseeable harm standard, timing requirements, and to ensure that the FDA does not ask state or local governmental entites to enter into contracts that would violate state law. 

  • 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.

  • October 5, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the Mayor of New York City, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, and the NYPD arguing (1) that policy body-worn camera (BWC) videos are not exempt from New York's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) under Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, and (2) even assuming, arguendo, that BWC videos are exempt from disclosure under that provision the City has discretion to release such footage. 

     

  • September 19, 2018
    The Reporters Committee submitted comments regarding the Office of Management and Budget's proposed updates to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. The comments recommend that OMB's modify the proposed rule in numerous ways, including conforming to FOIA's definition of "representative of the news media", ensuring it is consistent with D.C. Circuit precedent on "determinations", and adding language implementing the foreseeable harm standard.
  • August 20, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and 11 media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is seeking juvenile autopsy records from the Clark County Office of the Coroner under the Nevada Public Records Act so that it may report on patterns of fatal abuse or neglect of children. The Las Vegas Review-Journal prevailed below, and the Office of the Coroner appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, arguing that the records are not available under the NPRA.  The amicus brief highlights the important reporting that has been done using autopsy reports, including stories about the health and safety of children, official misconduct, occupational health, and government fraud.  The amicus brief argues that the position of the Office of the Coroner, if adopted, would impede news reporting on matters of public concern.

  • July 25, 2018

    The Reporters Committee submitted comments on proposed updates to the United States Department of Agriculture's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. The comments recommend that USDA (1) update its definition of "representatives of the news media" to comport with the 2007 FOIA amendments, and (2) add language implementing the foreseeable harm standard introduced in the 2016 FOIA amendments.  

  • 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.