News

Format: 2017-03-23
Format: 2017-03-23
June 5, 2015
The question of whether the federal Freedom of Information Act is an effective tool was hotly debated at a two-day hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week. Requesters answered emphatically that the FOIA process is broken, but agency employees disagreed. FOIA requesters including reporters and watchdog groups testified before the committee on Tuesday, addressing the FOIA barriers they’ve encountered, including backlogs, request delays, excessive redactions, and unreasonable fees.
June 5, 2015
Regulators will keep rules requiring the public disclosure of certain information about trains transporting crude oil intact, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced last week. The Department of Transportation had previously announced on May 1 that it would phase out the temporary rules, which were enacted on May 7, 2014, a week after a major oil train derailment in Lynchburg, Va.
June 3, 2015
When the Dallas Police Department released its policy in May on the right of the press and public to records its officers, the media were left scrambling to figure out what had changed between when the policy was drafted and circulated and when it was released officially.
May 28, 2015
In a disappointing ruling today, the Washington Supreme Court struck down the state’s anti-SLAPP law in its entirety, holding that it violates the right to trial by jury under the Washington Constitution. The decision marks the first time an anti-SLAPP law has been held unconstitutional. The Washington law, RCW 4.24.525, required judges to weigh the disputed facts of cases and dismiss them if they determined that the plaintiff could not show by clear and convincing evidence a probability of prevailing on the claim. The Washington Supreme Court held that it must be juries, not judges, who make those determinations of fact.
May 27, 2015
While the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision last week that private colleges’ police forces must make their records available to the public upon request, ESPN is appealing an Indiana court's ruling that the sports cable channel was not entitled to obtain police records from the University of Notre Dame. St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Steven Hostetler wrote that a state Public Access Counselor was incorrect in determining that ESPN was entitled to records from Notre Dame’s police department.
May 22, 2015
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) joined nearly 150 civil society groups, businesses, and trade groups in a letter to the White House urging it to not succumb to pressure to build in exceptions to encryption for law enforcement.
May 18, 2015
In a recent op-ed in The Washington Post, the Reporters Committee argued that the controversial issue of access to body cam videos need not be that controversial. Debate in Washington D.C. over police body cameras, and who should be able to see the resulting videos, has heated up in recent weeks. Despite promises of transparency, the Metropolitan Police Department has denied FOIA requests for body camera video, and Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed a new exemption to the DC FOIA that would completely prevent public access to bodycam videos.
May 15, 2015
A federal anti-SLAPP bill with bipartisan co-sponsors was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week. The SPEAK FREE Act, introduced Wednesday by Reps. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., is seen as an important step toward nationwide protection against meritless suits that chill speech.
April 29, 2015
A Florida bill that would revise the state’s narrow anti-SLAPP law to provide a greater level of protection for speakers against meritless lawsuits has passed both houses of the legislature and now awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s signature. Florida’s anti-SLAPP law, Fla. Stat. § 768.295, currently only provides for the speedy dismissal of SLAPP suits when such frivolous suits are filed by government entities. In practice, "strategic lawsuits against public participation," or SLAPPs, are filed by a wide range of plaintiffs, with far more deleterious effects on speakers than just those suits brought by the government.
April 29, 2015
Following arguments from prisoners, prisoner rights groups, and members of the media, a judge yesterday struck down the Pennsylvania Revictimization Relief Act as unconstitutionally restricting the speech of prisoners as well as media that carry their messages. The act allowed victims of personal injury crimes to bring civil actions against the perpetrators for “conduct which perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim,” defined as including “conduct which causes a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish.”
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.
April 27, 2015
The decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to throw out the defamation suit in Abbas v. Foreign Policy on Friday was a bittersweet victory for First Amendment advocates, as the court also decided that the D.C. anti-SLAPP law did not apply in federal court. This negative result shows clearly why Congress should pass federal anti-SLAPP legislation that would protect speakers who cannot benefit from their state’s anti-SLAPP law, as well as those in states that have no such law.
April 22, 2015
A bill modifying Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law, pushed by hotel and casino company Wynn Resorts, has made its way through the Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee and has been passed unanimously by the Senate. Though its proponents frame it as striking a balance between free speech and the right to petition, Senate Bill 444 essentially eviscerates the protections given to speakers under the anti-SLAPP law by modifying wording and key clauses that allow speakers to efficiently fight back against lawsuits intended to chill speech. If the state assembly also passes the bill and it is signed by the governor, speakers in that state will have real problems defending against these attacks without the help of what is currently one of the strongest anti-SLAPP laws in the nation.
April 22, 2015
Last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a new, fast-tracked bill to reauthorize Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Section 215, which allows the government to collect "tangible things" relevant to an authorized terrorism investigation, is set to expire on June 1, 2015. Senator McConnell's bill would extend the provision through 2020.
April 20, 2015
A California appellate court reversed course on Friday and vacated what media lawyers described as an unconstitutional prior restraint order. Last month, the court sealed a legal brief filed by the Pasadena Police Officers Association that quoted from a confidential report on the 2012 police shooting of teenager Kendrec McDade. The court’s order also directed the parties to the lawsuit, including the Los Angeles Times, which had long sought to obtain the report, to return all copies of the brief to the court. The police union didn’t move to seal the brief until nine days after it had been filed.