FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit

September 21, 2011 3:08 PM

September 21, 2011

Iowa Freedom of Information Council's annual meeting will be held Friday, Oct. 7, beginning at noon in Levitt Hall of Old Main at Drake University.

The topic of the meeting is media coverage of the judiciary. A panel of judges, lawyers and other experts will lead the discussion.

Reservations are $15 and include lunch. To reserve a spot or for more information, contact Kathleen Richardson or 515-271-2295.

September 21, 2011 2:56 PM

September 21, 2011

From Courthouse News Service:

VISTA, Calif. - A North San Diego County hospital district wants to stop the San Diego Union-Tribune from publishing "privileged and confidential communications" it accidentally sent to the newspaper in response to a public records request.

Tri-City Healthcare District seeks an injunction forcing the newspaper to return documents "inadvertently" sent by mail earlier this month.

September 21, 2011 2:51 PM

September 21, 2011


The Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit against the University of Florida alleging that it is violating Florida's public records law by not releasing details of scientific reviews of a controversial paper on fertilizer restrictions.

The 2009 paper, known as "Unintended Consequences," backs away from earlier recommendations by the university's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to restrict how and when fertilizer is applied to keep it from polluting waterways, where it blamed for causing devastating algae blooms.

September 21, 2011 2:42 PM

September 21, 2011

From Billings Gazette:

HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Supreme Court has suspended its rules governing access to court records, a move that a freedom of information advocate says may result in a step backward in the public's ability to obtain or view those documents.

The rules for privacy and public access to court records in Montana, adopted in 2007 and amended the next year, were meant to provide a uniform policy for the state court system in anticipation of the records becoming available on the Internet. The aim was to maximize public access while protecting individual privacy rights.

September 21, 2011 2:36 PM

September 21, 2011

From Information Week:

President Obama on Tuesday urged world leaders to push forward with transparency and citizen engagement, calling open government "the essence of democracy." At the same time, the White House rolled out the next phase of its own open government strategy.

The occasion marked the launch of the Open Government Partnership, a 46-nation effort to improve government transparency. The partnership Tuesday issued an Open Government Declaration pledging transparency, citizen engagement, and increased access to technology.

September 21, 2011 1:51 PM

September 21, 2011


State Treasurer Curtis Loftis says the cash-starved state Department of Transportation is dragging its feet on providing him information, so he’s embraced a tool typically used by news organizations in an effort to compel the agency to respond.


Loftis on Wednesday filed a formal Freedom of Information Act request with DOT seeking the information, including detailed monthly analysis of overdue payments, other payment delay information dating back to January 2010 and a cash flow forecast.

September 21, 2011 1:31 PM

September 21, 2011

From Student Press Law Center:

New Jersey’s Supreme Court has struck a decisive blow for the transparency of government spending, ruling that lobbying groups created by government agencies cannot hide behind their “private” corporate status to conceal their records.

The Aug. 23 ruling strengthens the case for journalists and citizen watchdogs everywhere to seek greater public accountability for the powerful special-interest lobbies that represent school boards, cities, counties and other units of government.

September 21, 2011 1:22 PM

September 21, 2011


The Senate is pushing a revamped bill to overhaul the state Sunshine Law, key lawmakers say.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said she’s been paying close attention to Courier-Post reports of elected officials’ prohibited email quorums and ensuing county prosecutors’ investigations.

September 21, 2011 1:17 PM

September 21, 2011


WASHINGTON, PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- NASA is announcing the International Space Apps Competition to support the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which President Barack Obama announced Tuesday. The challenge will culminate with a two-day event next year that will provide an opportunity for government to use the expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of citizen explorers to help address global challenges.

During the event, NASA representatives and officials from international space agencies will gather with scientists and citizens to use publicly-released scientific data to create solutions for issues, such as weather impact on the global economy and depletion of ocean resources.

September 20, 2011 7:40 AM

September 20, 2011

From The Burlington Free Press:

COLCHESTER -- St. Michael's College and the Vermont Press Association will host Investigative Reporters and Editors and its Better Watchdog Workshop for professional, student and citizen journalists Oct. 1-2.

Seven educational sessions, including Watchdogging Local Government, Quick Hit Investigations, the Art of the Interview, FOI/Public Records are planned for Oct. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Cheray Science Hall at St. Michael's. The cost is $45 with a student rate of $15.

More details here.

September 20, 2011 7:38 AM

September 20, 2011

From The San Francisco Examiner:

San Francisco spends more money on government than it did a decade ago, but that government employs fewer people. Public safety spending is a smaller portion of the total budget than ever. And The City’s debt has shot up in just the past few years.

Until recently, that kind of historical, comparative information about where our public money goes might have required some serious data mining. But a nonprofit run by Stanford students and alumni has created a new Web interface that makes it a few clicks away.

September 19, 2011 3:49 PM

September 19, 2011

In the aftermath of the Casey Anthony trial and the verdict that stunned both local and television-audience court watchers, there have been unfortunate murmurings in Florida and elsewhere that the identity of jurors should be kept secret in all cases.

If that issue has arisen in your state, I highly recommend the issue paper by Jim Rhea, former executive director of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation.

In a clearly written but dispassionate paper, Rhea opined that it would be a bad idea and an overreach to make the withholding of jurors’ identities the rule, rather than the exception.

Rhea takes no position in the paper on what has happened since the Anthony jurors found her not guilty of murder last July in the death of her two-year-old daughter Caylee.

The judge who presided over the nationally televised trial barred release of jurors’ names and court officials have since followed that directive, saying that the jurors were asking media "to respect their privacy."

Since the end of trial, most of the Anthony jurors have been publicly identified only by juror number. At least one, however, was identified in a TV network interview, presumably with full or at least tacit permission.

Rhea, in his paper, offers no judgment on the judge’s ruling, on the media or on the Anthony jurors plea for privacy.

But he argues forcefully that judges in Florida have adequate authority to impose restrictions in circumstances where they are needed, and that an "overbroad exception to the constitutional right of access" is a bad idea.

He is right. Please be attentive if that bad idea suddenly becomes part of the public discourse in your state.


Visit First Amendment Foundation for the entire issue paper.

-- by Kenneth F. Bunting, executive director, NFOIC

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