Briefs & Comments

  • June 6, 2018

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming supporting a group of plaintiffs challenging a pair of state statutes that heighten criminal and civil penalties on an individual who crosses private land without permission to access adjacent or proximate land where he collects resource data, with collection of resource data defined as (1) “to take a sample of material” or “acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form”; and (2) “recording . . . a legal description or geographical coordinates of the location of the collection.”  Wyo. Stat.

  • May 29, 2018
    The Reporters Committee and a media coalition filed an amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting The Baltimore Brew, an online media outlet.  The news organization is challenging a practice of the Baltimore Police Department of requiring “non-disparagement” clauses in all settlements involving claims of police misconduct.  The district court concluded that the Baltimore Brew did not have standing to challenge that practice.  The Reporters Committee’s amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit argues that the Baltimore Brew, under longstanding constitutional principles, does have standing to challenge the City’s practice of imposing what are effectively gag orders on victims of police misconduct who would otherwise publicly share their stories, and highlights the strong public policy interest in favor of public access to settlement agreements entered into by public entities.
  • February 20, 2018

    The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of neither party in Breazeale et al. v. Victim Services, Inc., et al,  which is before the 9th Circuit on the appellants' petition for rehearing. The panel decision in Breazeale held that the denial of a special motion to strike under the California Anti-SLAPP Statute was not immediately appealeable because the motion was denied on the basis of the "public interest exception" to the Anti-SLAPP Statute. The amicus brief urges the Court to clarify that its holding does not apply when a special motion to strike under the Anti-SLAPP Statute is denied on grounds other than the public interest exception.  The amicus brief was drafted by attorneys at Jassy Vick Carolan LLP.

  • February 2, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University filed an amicus brief in support of 11 plaintiffs, several of whom are journalists, who are challenging government searches of smartphones and other electronic devices at the U.S. border without a warrant.  The amicus briefs argues that because electronic devices store enormous amounts of private information about a person's speech and associations, searching them at the border without a warrant violates travelers' First Amendment rights.  The amicus brief highlights the particular concerns of journalists, whose electronic devices contain sensitive information about their newsgathering activities that, if revealed to the government, could chill their relationships with sources and ability to report freely.

  • January 19, 2018

    The Reporters Committee and 22 media organizations submitted an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of a former journalist who alleges a city and its police chief retaliated against him after he wrote a column critical of the police department. On appeal, the police chief asserted that the district court was wrong to deny him qualified immunity. The amicus brief argues that First Amendment retaliation claims are critical to journalists, who are at risk of retaliation by government officials because their reporting may be critical of government. The brief also argues that the district court correctly determined that the police chief is not entitled to qualified immunity because a campaign of harassment in retaliation for speech violates the Constitution, and the right to be free from such retaliatory harassment is clearly established.

  • December 21, 2017

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia to express its concern regarding statements made during the closing arguments in the prosecution of Alexei Wood.  Wood live-streamed the January 20, 2017 Inauguration Day protest in Washington, DC, and was arrested and charged with various crimes stemming from his presence at the protest.  He was acquitted on December 21, 2017.  During closing arguments, the Assistant United States Attorney argued that Wood could not be an "up-and-coming journalist" because of Wood's familiarity with certain terms like "black bloc" and "kettle" and commented on Wood's "fake press badge."  The Reporters Committee's letter emphasized that newsgatherers must be familiar with the subject matter they cover, including its terminology, and that reporters are not required to have a press pass to cover a protest on public streets.

  • December 18, 2017

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the presiding judge in State v. Tisdale, regarding the sentencing of a Georgia journalist, Nydia Tisdale, who was convicted on a misdemeanor obstruction charge related to her arrest while filming a political rally in 2014. The letter, submitted for the sentencing hearing, argued that Tisdale should be given leniency because she was engaged in newsgathering at the time of the arrest and because she performs a valuable service to the public.

  • August 14, 2017

    This case asks the U.S. Supreme Court to answer whether the warrantless seizure and search of historical cellphone records revealing the location and movements of a cellphone user over the course of 127 days is permitted by the Fourth Amendment. RCFP and 19 media organizations joined as amici in support of petitioner, arguing that the Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to get cellphone location information. The brief explained the historic connection between the First and Fourth Amendments, and argued that long-term tracking of cellphone location information could reveal First Amendment-protected activities and threaten the confidentiality of the newsgathering process. 

  • June 13, 2017

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote to the Department of Justice's Inspector General to express our concern about United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policies and practices that affect journalists at the border. The Office of the Inspector General had earlier announced that it is looking into border inspection procedures.

  • May 16, 2017

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter on behalf of a coalition of national media organizations objecting to the arrest of reporter Dan Heyman in the West Virginia capitol, for shouting questions to Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway and HHS Secretary Tom Price during a visit.

  • April 10, 2017

    Petitioners seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court of dismissal of their civil rights suit concerning arrests of protesters during an Occupy Wall Street protest, arguing that they have a right to notice before being arrested for participation in a lawful protest. Attorneys for David Wright Tremaine wrote a brief on our behalf arguing that a lack of notice before mass arrests also interferes with reporters’ rights while covering newsworthy events.

  • February 27, 2017

    The Reporters Committee, joined by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, wrote to the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., in support of Aaron Cantú, the one remaining journalist still facing charges related to the protests on Inauguration Day. The letter questions why charges are still pending and why a journalist faces indictment when it appears he was covering the protests at the time of his arrest.

  • November 1, 2016

    The Reporters Committee, joined by 31 news organizations, filed a brief in the Third Circuit in support of two individuals who had been arrested for photographing police officers during arrests. The district court in Philadelphia had held that individuals have no First Amendment right to record officers in public unless they do so to criticize the police. The amicus brief argued that photos and videos provided by citizens and bystandards are valuable to the news media and the public, and taking such images should be encouraged.

  • October 3, 2016

    Plaintiffs Ray Askins and Christian Ramirez sued the Department of Homeland Security to challenge policies of Customs and Border Protection that ban photography at United States ports of entry without advanced permission from CBP. The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiffs, arguing that policies that restrict the news media's ability to photograph or record activity at the US border impinge upon the press's constitutionally protected rights to gather news and report on matters of public concern. We argued that photography and recording are essential elements of reporting on matters of public concern, including those that arise at the border; that strong public policy rationales underlie a First Amendment right to photograph public officials such as CBP officials; and that national security concerns do not provide a compelling interest that justifies the CBP photography policies.

  • September 30, 2016

    A Hungarian journalist at abcug.hu, an online news portal, was denied access to two Hungarian refugee camps. A report by the Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamental Rights described these conditions as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment. His requests were denied based on the privacy interests of the refugees. The Reporters Committee joined a coalition that intervened in the case, arguing that European Union law allowed journalists to report on important public controversies like this.