• strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /nfs/c09/h03/mnt/129647/domains/nfoic.org/html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
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  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /nfs/c09/h03/mnt/129647/domains/nfoic.org/html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 24.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /nfs/c09/h03/mnt/129647/domains/nfoic.org/html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 134.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /nfs/c09/h03/mnt/129647/domains/nfoic.org/html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 134.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /nfs/c09/h03/mnt/129647/domains/nfoic.org/html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
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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/.

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

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...

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...

September 14, 2017 1:53 PM

The latest news in Colorado transparency from NFOIC member Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition (CFOIC). Read more...

September 14, 2017 9:18 AM


It shouldn’t be necessary, but 10 news organizations, including The Spokesman-Review, are suing the Washington Legislature because it won’t release information that other politicians must divulge.

Under an effort spearheaded by the Associated Press earlier this year, news outlets requested copies of all 147 lawmakers’ calendars documenting their official schedules and work-related text messages.

The Legislature’s attorneys responded by saying that material didn’t qualify as “public records” under a change quietly pushed through during the 1995 legislative session. If nothing else, this stubborn stand on their claimed exemption demonstrates one thing: Legislature leaders clearly do not embrace the spirit of the voter-approved Public Disclosure Act.

That law, adopted overwhelmingly in 1972 states, in part, “full access to information concerning the conduct of government on every level must be assured as a fundamental and necessary precondition to the sound governance of a free society.”

If lawmakers agreed with that, they would release the material requested. Some lawmakers have, showing they do believe in the “transparency” mantra they all seemingly utter when they run for office. But they are the exception. The rest cling to the exemption, which will be the focus of the lawsuit. Read more

September 12, 2017 9:45 AM

Almost five and a half years ago OGIS recommended to Congress that the development of a governmentwide FOIA web portal could improve public access to government information. Now, thanks to ongoing collaboration between the Office of Management and Budget (OMB and the Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and 18F, the digital services agency within the General Services Administration, we are closer than ever to having a National FOIA Portal. 

Along with recommending the creation of the unified portal, OGIS was an early promoter of the effort to develop and expand FOIAonline, a multi-agency web platform that accepts FOIA requests, stores them in a repository for processing by agency staff, and allows an agency to post the released records in a centralized FOIA e-reading room. As we emphasized at the time, FOIAonline improved the experience for requesters, and saved taxpayers’ money by sharing agency resources and repurposing existing technology. FOIAonline also reduces the administrative burden on agencies since requester contact information is automatically stored in the system, and agencies can use the portal to communicate with the requester. Six of the 100-odd federal agencies that accept FOIA requests were a part of the FOIAonline launch, including part of the National Archives. As shown in 18F’s research while developing the National FOIA Portal, 10 percent of agencies now participate in FOIAonline, representing 17 percent of the total volume of requests processed by the federal government. Continue...

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