Government secrecy should not be legacy of mass shooting, California coalition argues

California’s First Amendment Coalition, joined by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the California News Publishers Association, filed an amicus brief urging an appeals court to overturn a lower court’s ruling that kept death records secret after a 2018 mass shooting.

Journalists covering the Borderline Bar & Grill massacre have been denied autopsy records. A judge blocked the release of the records, based on the prospect that a future law — not existing law — might make the records private, according to David Snyder, the executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

“Autopsy reports have long been subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act,” Snyder wrote in an Oct. 6, 2021, article. “While there are reasons agencies may delay or deny the release of certain information or images, that’s not what happened in the Borderline case. Here, the trial judge blocked access completely and indefinitely, depriving the public of information that could shed light on the government’s actions in an unspeakable tragedy.”