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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September 21, 2017 2:39 PM

A legal battle over records tied to former Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge has ended with the city reaching an agreement on retaining city documents.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 12 to 0 on Wednesday to approve the settlement with the First Amendment Coalition, a group that advocates for open government. The organization sued the city last year after it requested a range of emails and letters involving LaBonge and came up empty-handed. Read more...

September 21, 2017 2:38 PM

News Release

September 21, 2017                                                                                                   Contact: Lara Dieringer

573.882.4856 • ldieringer@nfoic.org

 

Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, to provide keynote address at 2017 FOI Summit

 

Skilled First Amendment litigator Jameel Jaffer will share his thoughts on today’s open government challenges and FOI litigation as the keynote speaker at the 2017 FOI Summit. Jaffer is the founding director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. He assumed his current position in June 2016 after leaving his position with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as its deputy legal director.

Throughout his career, Jameel has proven himself to be among the First Amendment’s most effective defenders. He has litigated some of the most significant post-9/11 cases relating to national security and civil liberties, among them: constitutional challenges to gag orders imposed under the USA Patriot Act, surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency, the viewpoint-based denial of visas to foreign scholars, and the sealing of judicial opinions issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. He has argued cases at all levels of the federal court system, including in the U.S. Supreme Court, and has testified before Congress about a variety of topics relating to national security and civil liberties. Jaffer is also one of the nation’s leading Freedom of Information Act attorneys, having litigated landmark cases that resulted in the publication of crucial documents about the U.S. government’s counter-terrorism policies.

Jameel’s recent writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the Nation, and the Yale Law Journal Forum. He is an executive editor of Just Security, a national security blog, and his most recent book, The Drone Memos, was published by The New Press in the fall of 2016. Jaffer is a graduate of Williams College, Cambridge University, and Harvard Law School. He served as a law clerk to Hon. Amalya L. Kearse of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and then to Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada.

The FOI Summit is an annual event of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and its state coalition members. The summit features the exchange of ideas, experiences and strategies about the latest issues and trends surrounding freedom of information laws, policies and practices at the state and local levels across the U.S. The summit delivers two days of panel discussions, presentations, and group interaction featuring experts, practitioners and champions of transparency and open government.

Saturday’s keynote luncheon also includes the 2017 induction ceremony for the State Open Government Hall of Fame

September 21, 2017 1:37 PM

Montrose County, on Colorado's Western Slope, has pulled its sex-offender list offline, reportedly because of a recent court ruling in which U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch found that such registries constituted cruel and unusual punishment in the case of three plaintiffs. The action was taken despite the fact that the ruling is specific to the complainants in question, rather than everyone on the roster, and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has announced her intention to appeal. Read more...

September 21, 2017 8:53 AM
A non-profit voter rights advocacy group, Access Democracy, founded by two veterans of Democratic politics, Hannah Fried and Alexis Prieur L’Heureux, has requested records related to online voter registration from the state of Florida. Read more...
florida FOIA
September 20, 2017 12:35 PM

The D.C. Open Government Coalition shares Mayor Muriel Bowser’s and Councilmember David Grosso’s desires to help D.C. residents move forward to lead successful lives after past arrests or convictions. But simply removing official proceedings from public view is not the answer. The mayor's goal is laudable, but these proposals as outlined are misguided, and would do more harm than good. We ask that the Mayor and the Council proceed cautiously and consider some of the unanticipated consequences of broad sealing after hearing from various stakeholders.

  Access to court records is crucial for the public to hold its governmental leaders, including law enforcement and the courts, accountable for arrests, prosecutions, and case outcomes. For example, the Baltimore Public Defender in 2016 relied on 700,000 court records to demonstrate the impact on poor, minority families of a predatory bail bond system. AWashington Post analysis of arrest and court records prompted legislation now before the Council Judiciary Committee to amend the Youth Act. Using records targeted by these legislative proposals for sealing or expungement, The Post tracked individuals who received lenient Youth Act sentences, then went on to commit serious felonies.

  We are concerned that Mayor Bowser’s proposals requiring the automatic destruction and/or sealing of entire categories of criminal case records, with no meaningful judicial review or individualized findings, would undercut the public’s First Amendment right and ability to serve as a watchdog on government activity.  As the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized, openness “enhances both the basic fairness of the criminal trial and the appearance of fairness so essential to public confidence in the system.”

  The underlying goal of  Mayor Bowser’s and Councilman Grosso’s proposals is protecting D.C. residents from improper use of police and court records by employers, licensing bodies, landlords, financial institutions and others — which we strongly endorse. There should not be unreasonable impediments to rehabilitation of lives; at the same time, there are situations where continued access to court records is necessary.

  We feel future public hearings conducted by the Council may highlight more narrowly tailored ways to address that goal without sacrificing the public’s right to oversee the criminal justice system. Legislation prohibiting improper use of such records would provide residents more effective protection than attempting to hide the records from the public.

  We urge the Mayor and Council to give careful consideration to all these legal and policy implications as it takes up this complex issue We hope for a meaningful opportunity to work together to protect the public’s right to know and to hold our government accountable, while ensuring that D.C. residents who have not been convicted of crimes can move forward from brushes with the legal system.

Contact: Corinna Zarek, President
               (202) 780-6020
               corizarek@gmail.com

September 20, 2017 10:48 AM
Arkansas' intent to shield much of its execution procedure from public view took another hit Tuesday when a second judge ruled that the state's prison system must disclose labels that will identify the manufacturer of a lethal injection drug.
 
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce told the Arkansas Department of Correction to give lawyer Steven Shults unredacted package inserts for recently acquired midazolam by Sept. 28. He said Arkansas' legislators had an opportunity to grant pharmaceutical companies secrecy in a 2015 execution law but didn't. Read more...
September 19, 2017 4:01 PM

Waukegan city officials violated the state's open records law by withholding a police report concerning Waukegan District 60 superintendent's missing personnel file, the Illinois Attorney General's office ruled September 18. Read more...

September 19, 2017 9:12 AM

Senate passed the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, championed by Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) on September 18. Read more...

September 18, 2017 6:03 PM

The House of Representatives is taking legal action to make sure that federal agencies don’t release congressional records to the public through the Freedom of Information Act.

The move, which came September 15 evening in a lawsuit demanding access to discussions about health care reform between the Trump administration and Congress, threatens to cut off a mechanism liberal watchdog groups were using to gain insight into closed-door negotiations on a variety of policy issues. Read more...

FOIA
September 18, 2017 2:21 PM

In February, Arkansas lawmakers marked the 50-year anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act with a resolution calling it “a shining example of open government” that had ensured access to vital public records for generations.

They spent the following weeks debating and, in many cases approving, new exemptions to the law in what critics called an unprecedented attack on the public’s right to know. Read more...

September 15, 2017 11:56 AM

 

 

 

 

News Release

September 15, 2017                                                                                                              Contact: Lara Dieringer

573.882.4856 • ldieringer@nfoic.org

Jennifer Royer

317.361.4134 • jroyer@spj.org

 

“Skillful” First Amendment attorney from Iowa is 2017 Inductee to the

State Open Government Hall of Fame

 

Michael Giudicessi, a partner in the Des Moines office of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP was selected as the 2017 inductee into the “Heroes of the 50 States: State Open Government Hall of Fame.”

Each year, the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC), in collaboration with the Society of Professional Journalists, solicits nominations for First Amendment “heroes” whose deeds, actions and achievements merit designation and induction into this institution.  The intent is to recognize individuals whose lifetime commitment to citizen access, open government and freedom of information has left a significant legacy at the state and local level. 

Mr. Giudicessi was nominated by the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. “For most of the Council’s 41-year history, Michael has been an important voice in our efforts driven by his passion for the cause of government transparency,” said Randy Evans, IFIC’s executive director. “Over that time, having the services of one of the most skillful First Amendment lawyers in the Midwest –in the courts, in our training programs, and in the halls of government-- have cost the Council exactly zero.”

A University of Missouri School of Journalism graduate and a JD degree from the University of Iowa College of Law, Giudicessi began his legal career as a staff attorney for the Des Moines Register and Tribune, later as general counsel to Palmer Communications. He continues his activism today as a senior partner in Faegre Baker Daniels’ Des Moines office and as counsel to the Iowa FOI Council.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former executive at the Register and Tribune, Michael Gartner said Giudicessi has been a mentor to two generations of news people in Iowa teaching them the importance of the First Amendment. “As a result, Iowa’s newspapers –from the Storm Lake Times to the Register-- are led by news people who know the law and fight for it,” said Gartner.

Mr. Giudicessi’s induction will occur at NFOIC’s 2017 Freedom of Information Summit during the Hall of Fame luncheon sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute. The summit takes place October 13-14 in Nashville TN, at the First Amendment Center, Vanderbilt University.

FOI Summit sponsors include: Bloomberg LP (Platinum), Charles Koch Institute (Gold), and Official sponsors: the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, SDX Foundation of the Society of Professional Journalists, and Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation. The summit co-host is the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.

September 15, 2017 11:36 AM

 Changes are coming to Hawaii’s records and open meeting laws, affecting how people can find out about public meetings as well as how much they’ll pay for public records.

Changes to the Sunshine Law, governing public notice of meetings and meeting minutes, are legislated in Act 64, passed unanimously by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. David Ige earlier this year. It goes into effect July 1.

Also coming next year are administrative rule changes that the state Office of Information Practices is currently drafting. Read more...

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