FOI Advocate News Blog

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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 http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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October 9, 2013 2:30 PM

From The Chippewa Herald: A group of media outlets and organizations advocating for freedom of information filed a motion Tuesday in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals aimed at ensuring that records involving a former aide to Scott Walker are not kept secret.

The motion was filed in the criminal appeal of Kelly Rindfleisch, a former aide to Walker when he was the county executive of Milwaukee County. Rindfleisch, Walker’s former deputy chief of staff, pleaded guilty in November to one count of felony misconduct in public office and was sentenced to serve six months in jail for doing campaign work on county time.

[...]

Filing the motion to intervene Tuesday were publishers of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, the Associated Press, Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Visit The Chippewa Herald for more.

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is a member of NFOIC. --eds

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October 9, 2013 2:21 PM

From The Washington Post: The fight by a conservative legal group and Del. Robert Marshall (R-Prince William) to obtain the e-mails written by leading climate change scientist Michael E. Mann while he was at the University of Virginia was shot down by a judge in Prince William County last year. But Marshall and the legal group appealed, and the Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to take the case and rule on whether the state’s Freedom of Information Act exempts unpublished academic research from being disclosed to the public, even after it’s been concluded or has been released elsewhere.

Mann has been gone from U.Va. since 2005 and is now at Penn State, where he published his book, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” a reference to a hockey stick-shaped graph depicting the rise in global temperatures and the controversy surrounding it. While Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli tried and failed to obtain Mann’s work material by investigative subpoena, Marshall and the American Tradition Institute filed a detailed, 11-page FOIA request in 2011. That request wound up in Prince William County Circuit Court after U.Va. determined that there were more than 13,000 potentially responsive documents and about 12,000 were exempt under a FOIA clause which excludes “Data, records or information of a proprietary nature produced or collected by or for faculty or staff of public institutions of higher learning…in the conduct of or as a result of study or research on medical, scientific, technical or scholarly issues…where such data, records or information has not been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented.”

Visit The Washington Post for more.

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October 9, 2013 2:18 PM

From KJRH: GLENPOOL, Okla. - This little city just south of Tulsa on Highway 75 has grown a lot over the past few years.

It has recently added a new community center and city hall, but it's what Tommy Carner says is going on inside the new buildings, that prompted him to run for Glenpool city council.

[...]

Carner helped gather signatures for a state audit in February of 2012. Two years later, the 75-page audit has been released.

[...]

The document lists concerns about transparency, lack of documentation and concerns over violations of the state's Open Records Act.

Visit KJRH for more.

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October 9, 2013 1:57 PM

From Richmond Times Dispatch: In 1996, when the Virginia Coalition for Open Government formed, its founders wanted to make at least one point abundantly clear: The public’s right to know is the public’s right to know. The Freedom of Information Act was not — and is not — a media law.

Statistics and anecdotal evidence at the local, state and federal level bear this out. The number of requests for records made by members of the news media pale in comparison with those made by citizens, lawyers, businesses, researchers and academics.

The news media have no more rights under Virginia’s FOIA than any given citizen in the commonwealth. The government must make the same responses within the same time frame whether it is the Richmond Times-Dispatch or Megan Rhyne making the request.

Visit Richmond Times Dispatch for more.

Megan Rhyne is the executive director of the Virgnia Coalition for Open Government. The Virginia Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. --eds

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October 9, 2013 1:52 PM

From Reporter Committee for Freedom of the Press: In response to the recent controversy about The Associated Press phone records subpoena, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would expand the existing shield law for the state's journalists.

Under the new law, which takes into effect Jan.1, officials are required to notify journalists at least five days before they subpoena third-party providers, such as telephone companies or cloud-based servers, for their records. The bill gives journalists the opportunity to challenge the subpoena in court or at least request the scope be narrowed.

Visit Reporter Committee for Freedom of the Press for more.

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October 9, 2013 1:33 PM

From ctpost.com: OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A state legislator on Tuesday quizzed two court clerks over why public court records aren't readily available online during a hearing examining broadening Oklahoma's Open Records Act.

Norman Republican Rep. Aaron Stiles requested Tuesday's interim study before the House Judiciary Committee to review how the act applies to certain court files.

Visit ctpost.com for more.

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October 9, 2013 1:30 PM

From delmarvanow.com: DEWEY BEACH — Citizens express concern about Town Manager Marc Applebaum’s meetings with members of the local business community, saying he should be subjected to open meeting laws, noticed and conducted in public, citing officials promise of more transparency last year after their published agendas violated the Freedom of Information Act rules.

Residents have not filed a formal FOIA complaint against the town or Applebaum, but town attorney, Fred Townsend, examined the issue and discussed it at the Sept. 6 meeting. Applebaum met with various local businesses following the defeat of the gross receipts tax, in an effort to find an alternative way of paying a fair share in the town.

Visit delmarvanow.com for more.

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October 9, 2013 1:27 PM

From Property Casualty 360: The attorney work-product privilege is one of the three primary privileges incorporated into Exemption 5 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5). It protects materials prepared by an attorney or others in anticipation of litigation, ostensibly shielding materials that would disclose the attorney’s theory of the case or trial strategy. President Lyndon B. Johnson originally signed FOIA into law by on July 4, 1966 and it went into effect the following year.

[...]

In a recent $70 million lawsuit involving turbine damage, a New York court held that an insurer cannot withhold pre-denial documents and communications simply because an attorney conducted the coverage investigation. In essence, the court asserted that neither the attorney-client privilege nor the work-product doctrine applied to reports prepared by outside counsel because the reports were created before the insurers made a "firm decision" to either approve or deny the claim, which involved $5 million in property damage and another $65 million in business interruption (BI) losses.

Visit Property Casualty 360 for more.

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October 9, 2013 1:17 PM

From Fort Mill Times: WASHINGTON -- Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), issued the following statement today applauding the Wisconsin Senate for passing legislation promoting transparency and limiting contingency fees when the state attorney general, an executive branch agency, or elected officials hire outside private plaintiff attorneys to represent the state. The legislation, the Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting Act (AB 27), now heads to Governor Scott Walker for his signature.

“By advancing AG ‘sunshine’ legislation, Wisconsin’s Senate took a significant step today to rein in the troublesome practice of awarding contingency fee contracts to outside plaintiffs’ lawyers. Such schemes enrich lawyers at the expense of taxpayers and raise significant concerns about ‘pay-to-play,’ conflicts of interest, the use of a public entity for personal gain, and fairness in prosecutions. We urge Governor Walker to swiftly sign this bill into law.

Visit Fort Mill Times for more.

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October 9, 2013 1:07 PM

From Daily Pilot: Costa Mesa officials have denied a public records request for a 20-year-old archaeological study about the Fairview Indian Site.

The Daily Pilot, which filed the request Sept. 23, had sought a copy of the 1993 report, conducted by the Keith Cos.

Visit Daily Pilot for more.

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October 9, 2013 1:04 PM

From Honolulu Civil Beat: News organizations throughout the state are asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to make it clear that a judge can't close a criminal trial or hear arguments in secret unless the press and public are first given a chance to object.

Hawaii is the only state that has not expressly asserted the First Amendment right to attend criminal judicial proceedings, according to a "friend of the court" brief expected to be filed Monday in a case that seeks the release of transcripts from closed sessions of the recent murder trial of U.S. State Department special agent Christopher Deedy.

[...]

On Monday, 11 other news organizations and journalism groups filed an additional brief supporting the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now. But they also want the state's highest court to reverse a 35-year-old ruling that the press did not have a First Amendment right to attend court hearings. The amicus brief was filed by the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest on behalf of Civil Beat, KITV/Hearst Television, KHON, Hawaii Public Radio, Hawaii Reporter, Hawaii Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today, Maui Time Weekly, the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Media Council Hawaii and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Visit Honolulu Civil Beat for more.

The Media Council Hawaii is a member of NFOIC. --eds

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October 9, 2013 12:55 PM

From First Amendment Coalition: Long gone are the days when major newspapers and network news operations had the power, through their selection of stories, to set the political agenda. That's a change for the better, to be sure. But the best of the ancient media regime are still peerless in their ability to compel change in the actions of the people and institutions they report on.

Take for example an article in the business section of Sunday's New York Times about commercial websites that publish police mugshots -- millions of mugshots obtained as public records from police departments across the country. These websites are in the humiliation business, posting mugshots indiscriminately, with no consideration for whether the pictured individuals have ever been convicted of a crime.

Worse, most of these websites are also in the extortion business: They offer to remove a mugshot for a fee.

The Times' very thorough story (by reporter David Segal) is hardly the first about this particular nether niche of the internet. Earlier news coverage appeared in Wired, Gizmodo, Niemanlab, Yahoo, and Searchengineland, among other outlets. But here's the difference: while the other stories about these websites could be ignored by powerful interests that have enabled and profited from them, the same firms sprung into action when they learned the Times was planning a story.

Visit the First Amendment Coalition for more.

Peter Scheer is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. The First Amendment Coalition is a member of NFOIC. --eds

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