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 27, 2017 8:23 AM

At least six of President Trump’s closest advisers occasionally used private email addresses to discuss White House matters, current and former officials said on Monday, September 25. Read more...

September 26, 2017 9:09 AM

The city of Buffalo has announced plans to launch an open data portal in October that will give the public streamlined access to datasets about services, policing and more. Read more...

#opendata, New York FOI
September 25, 2017 11:25 AM

In an effort to make county records more accessible, the Boone County Recorder of Deeds plans to digitize paper records and make them searchable online. Read more...

September 25, 2017 11:18 AM

Amid the heated Capitol Hill debates on health care, tax reform and agency funding, lawmakers are actively working on legislation improving how policies are made and to learn how well federal programs work, with the help of government data. Read more...

September 22, 2017 11:47 AM

The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled September 21, 2017, that School Administrative Unit 55 is allowed to charge $7.49 to provide a 3-page email in electronic format. In the case of Taylor v. SAU 55, the court ruled that the charge for a thumb drive covers the actual cost of making a copy. Read more...

September 21, 2017 3:16 PM

Skilled First Amendment litigator Jameel Jaffer will share his thoughts on the significance of open government 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. Read more...

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 2:39 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

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