News

Format: 2017-01-21
Format: 2017-01-21
June 25, 2014
Two senators crossed party lines in support of legislation that would strengthen the current Freedom of Information Act and diminish agencies’ excuses for withholding documents. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) introduced the bill June 24 after the Senate Judiciary Committee held a meeting in March to discuss changes to the FOIA. “The Freedom of Information Act is one of our nation’s most important laws, established to give Americans greater access to their government and to hold government accountable,” Leahy said in a press release.
June 25, 2014
The Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in favor of digital privacy Wednesday that says police generally need a search warrant to examine an arrested person’s cell phone. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a sweeping opinion, stating that digital devices contain collections of potentially sensitive information. The Court rejected arguments that searching a cellphone is akin to examining anything else officers might find on someone they arrest. “Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse,” Roberts wrote. The opinion still allows police to search cell phones without warrants under “exigent circumstances.” This includes “ticking-bomb scenarios” or instances when there’s reason to believe evidence is going to be destroyed.
June 23, 2014
The U.S. Senate Press Gallery denied the popular Supreme Court website SCOTUSblog Senate press credentials today, finding that the site does not exercise enough editorial independence from the publisher's law firm. The Gallery’s Standing Committee of Correspondents, consisting of five journalists credentialed to cover the Senate, posted a letter to SCOTUSblog’s publisher Tom Goldstein one month after its May 23 meeting discussing the site’s relation to Goldstein's firm, Goldstein & Russell LLP.
June 23, 2014
A district court in Wisconsin denied a motion to unseal documents last week in a lawsuit attempting to end an investigation into Wisconsin Republican campaign finances. On May 1, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, along with four other media organizations, filed a motion to intervene and unseal the entirety of the parties’ filings in the federal court proceeding O’Keefe v. Schmitz et. al.
June 20, 2014
Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine announced in his State of the Judiciary Address this month that the court is “working on a different approach” to an arbitration program that will replace its rejected predecessor. The initial program failed in 2011 after a federal district court declared it unconstitutional, saying it infringed upon the public’s First Amendment right to access court proceedings. Strine did not provide many details about the proposal, but some experts are worried that the plan could attempt to unreasonably restrict access again. The new program should be up for approval from Delaware’s General Assembly by January 2015, Strine said.
June 19, 2014
New York’s Suffolk County Police Department agreed to take new measures to instruct police on citizens’ recording rights in a settlement following the arrest of a freelance videographer. Phillip Datz, a videographer and member of the National Press Photographers Association, filed a complaint against Suffolk County Police in 2012 after an officer arrested him for obstruction of governmental administration because Datz filmed police activity while on a public street. Before the case made it to trial in the U.S. District Court of New York, Datz and Suffolk County reached a settlement. Suffolk County agreed to develop resources on citizens’ recording rights and to pay Datz $200,000 to cover attorney’s fees and costs.
June 18, 2014
The Cherokee Nation Council passed an amendment to its freedom of information law that will extend the response time to records requests about the tribe’s government. The Freedom of Information Act amendment passed 10-6 Monday night with one councilor not in attendance, after the council also passed an amendment to its Governmental Records Act, which provides government officials access to records. The amendment creates an information officer that will receive all records requests and will be independent of any office within the government. Under the old act, the attorney general handled records requests from the press and public.
June 18, 2014
A U.S. District Court in Texas ruled that Texas’ anti-SLAPP law applies in federal courts and then dismissed a defamation claim under that statute. The district court judge ruled on June 11 that defendants, broadcast companies operating under the name KRIS Communications, could apply the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) to a lawsuit brought by Christopher Williams. The news organizations released stories on Williams, a teacher accused of criminal acts of a sexual nature with students in several schools. Williams sued for defamation, so the defendants moved to dismiss the case under the TCPA. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos found that the TCPA did apply to the broadcasters and further ruled that the TCPA can be used in federal courts.
June 18, 2014
On the Senate floor this week Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., praised new statutory protections for intelligence agency whistleblowers, but expressed concerns with a new policy created by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that punishes intelligence agency employees for talking to the press. Wyden worked with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to include the new whistleblower protections in a provision in the 2014 Intelligence Authorization bill, which passed unanimously Wednesday evening, but Wyden’s success with the bill is overshadowed by his frustrations with a new policy from the DNI.
June 17, 2014
Nik Richie, operator of the website TheDirty.com, cannot be held liable for potentially defamatory remarks made by a third-party poster on his website, according to a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling released Monday. The court reversed a district court ruling that held Richie could be liable because he “encouraged” defamatory statements and then “adopted” the statements by adding his own comments to the posts. The court describes TheDirty.com as “a user-generated, online tabloid” where users can post gossip about anyone, often private individuals.
June 17, 2014
Utah’s court system began allowing TV cameras, smartphones and laptops into public court proceedings last year, but officials revised that rule after repeatedly denying one man’s requests to record family law proceedings. The revision reverses the presumption that video cameras are allowed in family court proceedings, and, instead, lets the judge weigh a number of factors to decide when taping is allowed. Though judges made the rule effective immediately, Utah’s Judicial Council is considering comments from the public on the proposal until June 24 and plans to permanently vote on the rule change in August. In January, family law attorney Eric Johnson began making dozens of recording requests for hundreds of divorce cases. Only one request was granted.
June 17, 2014
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago (7th Cir.) reversed a trial court ruling that would have reportedly been the first case in which defense attorneys obtained access to government surveillance court materials. The three-judge panel sided with the government Monday, stating that the disclosure of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court records to the attorneys of Adel Daoud would pose a threat to national security. Daoud was arrested in 2012 for attempting to bomb a Chicago bar in what turned out to be a sting operation. The court submitted its public opinion with a sealed, classified opinion that provides more explanation. Judge Richard Posner wrote that the district court erred in thinking the defense attorneys’ security clearances entitled them access to the materials, which he believed could pose a threat to national security.
June 16, 2014
The town of Weare, New Hampshire, settled a lawsuit last week for $57,500 with a woman arrested for videotaping a police officer, adding to the growing list of settlements stemming from police officers’ restriction of video and audio recordings in public places. In Gericke v. Begin, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) upheld a lower court opinion that Carla Gericke was within her First Amendment rights to record a police officer at a traffic stop. Following that opinion, instead of choosing to continue with the trial, Weare settled the case with Gericke. Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said most of the cases in which citizens sue police for unlawfully arresting them or confiscating their cameras reach a settlement, although this settlement was low in comparison to others he has noticed.
June 13, 2014
Spurred by a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear an appeal by New York Times reporter James Risen – which could result in Risen going to jail or being fined for not naming his source – media organizations stress that now is the time to pass a federal shield bill. More than 70 news organizations – the Reporters Committee included – sent a letter to the Senate majority and minority leaders earlier this week, urging them to schedule a vote on the shield bill.
June 13, 2014
After a drawn out legal battle over access to police car dashcam videos between TV station KOMO and the Seattle Police Department, the local news source received a favorable opinion from the Washington State Supreme Court. The court concluded the police should have released videos in response to two public records requests made by KOMO reporter Tracy Vedder. KOMO sued for access when the Department of Justice was investigating the Seattle Police Department for use of excessive force.