Vermont reverses course on concealing lawsuits, following complaint by national news service

Following a complaint by a national legal news service, the state of Vermont issued an emergency order effective Monday directing court clerks to make public all lawsuits as soon as they are filed.

Previously, state court rules required clerks to keep lawsuits secret until defendants had been served — a violation of the public's First Amendment right to access to court records, according to a federal case brought against Vermont by Courthouse News Service.

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High court grants access to records

From Bennington Banner: RUTLAND (AP) — The Vermont Supreme Court on Friday upheld a lower court ruling giving the Rutland Herald newspaper access to records connected to an investigation into the Rutland city police officers who were disciplined for viewing and sending pornography at work.

The justices denied an appeal by the city, which raised concerns about the privacy rights of city employees.

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NFOIC’s State FOIA Friday for October 11, 2013

From NFOIC:  A few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.

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New access to criminal investigation records assessed by Vermont lawmakers

From VtDigger.org: Vermont’s public records law is rife with exemptions, but last spring the Legislature lifted one that had kept locks on all records relating to criminal investigations.

A committee of lawmakers, given the task of inventorying all 245 exemptions during a three-year period, revisited that change Friday, three months after it took effect.

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Burlington Free Press reporter wins national award from SPJ

From Burlington Free Press:  Mike Donoghue, a reporter with the Burlington Free Press, has won a Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.

“The Society’s Sunshine Award recognizes those making important contributions in the area of open government,” a news release said. “This award was the most competitive of our national honor awards.”

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Vermont Legislature to postpone action on record exemptions

From burlingtonfreepress.com:

MONTPELIER — The House takes up a short bill Tuesday morning that postpones decisions about public records exemptions until 2014 to allow for the Legislature’s legal staff to comb the statutes one last time and write a bill that would consolidate the exemptions — 239 at last count — in a single place in the law books.

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