Public records raise questions about Sunny Isles Beach mayoral candidate’s residence

By Syra Ortiz-Blanes of the Miami Herald, November 04, 2022 During her campaign to become the next mayor of Sunny Isles Beach, candidate Anita Funtek has emphasized her status as a longtime resident of the resort city in northeast Miami-Dade County. On her official candidate website, Hungarian-born Funtek chronicled her family’s international relocation to Sunny […]

RCFP’s Local Legal Initiative powers investigative reporting and chips away at culture of secrecy in state, local government

By Chris Young, Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, March 2022 Two years ago, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press launched its Local Legal Initiative, an ambitious effort to expand free legal support for local enterprise and investigative journalism. Through the initiative, started with generous support from the John S. and […]

Utah lawyers volunteer to help Salt Lake Tribune journalists get public records

The pro bono effort comes as government entities have increasingly denied reporters’ requests for public documents. By Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, September 28, 2022 Part of a journalist’s job is holding the powerful accountable — including government agencies that are funded by taxpayers. One way Salt Lake Tribune reporters do that is by […]

First Amendment access returned to court records throughout Florida

By Bill Girdner, Courthouse News Service, September 8, 2022 After a six-year legal saga, a federal judge entered an order that set an agreement between Courthouse News Service and Florida’s e-filing authority. The result is public access to new complaints when they cross the virtual counter, bringing the state courts back in line with how […]

Federal court leaders agree to refund fees for online records

By Ann E. Marimow, The Washington Post, October 11, 2022 The federal judiciary has agreed to pay $125 million to reimburse hundreds of thousands of users of the nationwide online records system as part of a proposed settlement made public Tuesday in a long-running lawsuit aimed at reducing the cost to access court records. Three […]

Chicago Taxpayers Could Be on the Hook for 6-Figure Penalty in Public Records Dispute

By Stefan Holt and Shelby Bremer, NBC Universal Media, September 21, 2022 A Cook County judge on Wednesday ordered the city of Chicago to turn over discovery records by Thursday afternoon in a legal dispute that could potentially leave taxpayers on the hook for a six-figure penalty – and could have been avoided if the […]

Website aims to make pollution permit information more accessible in Houston

By Dylan Baddour, Inside Climate News reprinted in Texas Tribune, September 15, 2022 Texas’ environmental regulators make it tricky for residents to track, or speak out against, industrial projects proposed near their homes. Advocates in Houston built a high-tech workaround. In theory, Texas’ state pollution regulator keeps a website where residents can track businesses applying […]

American Journalism Project announces transformative grants to four nonprofit news organizations

January 11, 2022 in E&P (Editor & Publisher Magazine) The American Journalism Project announced four new grants to give local news organizations capital needed to grow.  One of the recipients is Spotlight PA which focuses on statewide accountability reporting on government—which relies in part on good access to public records. Spotlight PA Grant:  “Led by […]

Reporter Jeff German confronted the power players of Sin City. It may have gotten him killed.

CSPRA supports the work of investigative journalists like Jeff German and honor his life tragically cut short by this alleged crime against public accountability and the use of public records to hold public officials to account. By Trevor Hughes, September 13, 2022, USA Today The murder of Las Vegas reporter Jeff German sent shockwaves through […]

Colorado’s open records law applies to public documents that are intimately related to public funds, court says

By Robert Davis, July 15, 2022, The Center Square Colorado’s open records law applies to documents used for public purposes even if they are held by a third-party entity, a court decided on Thursday. The ruling from the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed a 2020 decision from the El Paso County District Court which held […]

A recent Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling restricts the public’s ability to recover fees when suing for records.

By Chris Young and Luke Henkhaus, July 21, 2022, Reporters Committee The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent decision in a public records dispute could have a dramatic impact on government transparency in the state, resulting in fewer requests for records and, as one dissenting justice put it, “a less informed electorate.” The question at the center […]

New website identifies Florida law enforcement officers with disciplinary records

By Marlei Martinez, Reporter at WESH, NBC Affiliate, Orlando, Aug 1, 2022 A new online database shows officers who have been through disciplinary hearings with the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission over the past decade. Created by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and launched in June, the website lists law enforcement agencies in […]

California Recognizes “Constructive Denial” Doctrine Under Public Records Act

By Steven Zansberg, June 2022, Media Law Resource Center On June 17, 2022, California’s Court of Appeals (First District) held that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is not exempt from complying with the mandatory 24-day deadline for issuing its “determination” regarding public records requests, and that any records requester who does not receive such […]

State Sample FOI Request Letters

The resources described below are provided by the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) here: https://www.nfoic.org/state-sample-foia-request-letters/ Submitting an open records request to a state, county or local government is not difficult. However, a complete, well-written letter or email submitted to the right agency may increase your chances of getting a satisfactory response and avoiding delays […]

Is public information harder to access today?

Iowa Freedom of Information Council director speaks on topic amid proposed rule changes By Elijah Decious, August 12, 2022, The Gazette Whether you’re a reporter or an ordinary citizen, requesting public information from government entities has proved to be challenging in recent years.  In July, the Iowa Public Information Board dropped a proposed rule change […]

Kansas appeals court says secretary of state violated open records law by altering computer system

By Sherman Smith, July 22, 2022, Kansas Reflector TOPEKA — Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab violated state open records law when he ordered a software vendor to disable the ability to produce a public record, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled on Friday.  The ruling is the latest victory for Davis Hammet, a voting […]

N.J.’s lag in public record disputes ‘undermines transparency,’ watchdog says

by Dana DiFilippo, July 26, 2022, New Jersey Monitor People fighting to get government records typically have to wait nearly two years for answers when they seek help from a state office created to give folks a fast, free alternative to suing for access, the Office of the State Comptroller found in a new report […]

Marsy’s Law Flaws Result in Secrecy

By the Editorial Board, Tampa Bay Times Published June 7, 2022 When Florida voters approved Marsy’s Law four years ago, the intention was to protect crime victims’ privacy and prevent them from being further victimized. But some law enforcement agencies have applied blanket secrecy in interpreting the law, leading to basic information about crime in […]

A Legal Guide to PRIVACY AND DATA SECURITY 2022

Primary Author: Michael R. Cohen and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) The State of Minnesota produced a comprehensive and useful report to help businesses understand and comply with the many privacy and data security laws.  While it is impossible for a business to become an expert in all of the laws […]

Transparency organizations raise concerns about Uniform Law Commission’s redaction initiative

Posted on June 17, 2022 by Sarah Brewerton-Palmer A letter from government transparency organizations urges the Uniform Law Commission to prioritize the public’s right to know when it studies the redaction of personal information from public records. The June 17 letter was written by Sarah Brewerton-Palmer, legislative chair of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, and […]

Iowa Requires Reasonable Efforts to Provide Records at No Cost and to Reduce Charges for Records

May 3, 2022 by O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa In Iowa, a new law sets new parameters for what government agencies and officials may charge for access to public records. Senator Waylon Brown of Osage said the bill sets a reasonable standard of what the custodians of public records are to charge for copies. It takes […]

When it comes to open government, sunshine dims in Florida

Pamela Marsh, executive director of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation, said the trajectory of transparency and freedom of the press is in “dramatic decline.” At a recent gathering of the Press Club of Southwest Florida, Marsh noted that the state legislature keeps adding more exemptions to Florida’s Sunshine Law. To date, there are now 1,138 exemptions to open government laws. […]

A Look Inside the Black Box of New York State’s Criminal Justice Data

New York criminal justice data in a ‘black box’ A report by a nonprofit that monitors criminal justice information calls out New York State’s mechanisms for data collection and release. Measures for Justice says efforts to put data to use across the state are frequently hampered by: Antiquated systems Inconsistent practices Complicated and expensive request processes A degree […]

RCFP, PNA letter to Pennsylvania Supreme Court highlights barriers to accessing court records

Reporters Committee May 24 2022 Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press   A coalition of organizations led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association is urging the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to ensure consistent and meaningful public access to judicial records throughout the Commonwealth.  In […]

Measure to increase access to public documents approved by State Assembly

Elizabeth Larson May 24 2022 Lake County News   Amidst continuing failures by the Department of Insurance to maintain public access to government records, the California State Assembly on Monday approved AB 2370 by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County), which will restore transparency to a state agency plagued by scandal.  The bill was approved on a vote […]

The case for placing AI at the heart of digitally robust financial regulation

Jo Ann Barefoot May 24 2022 Brookings Institution   Data is the new oil.” Originally coined in 2006 by the British mathematician Clive Humby, this phrase is arguably more apt today than it was then, as smartphones rival automobiles for relevance and the technology giants know more about us than we would like to admit. Just […]

State board asked to block agencies from destroying public records

Clark Kauffman March 26 2022 Iowa Capital Dispatch   The head of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council says steps should be taken to ensure that public documents requested by the press and public aren’t then destroyed by government agencies.  Randy Evans, the council’s executive director, has written to the Iowa Public Information Board about the […]

A mother’s quest for openness provides map for spurring change

Mike Sherry The Kansas Leadership Center Journal March 2022 When Shelia Albers couldn’t get answers to the questions she had after her 17-year-old son was shot and killed by an Overland Park police officer while the teen was in the midst of a mental health crisis, she didn’t give up. Instead, she kept pushing, using […]

ACLU, NAACP sue over South Carolina ban on ‘scraping’ court records

Nate Raymond Reuters, March 30 2022 (Reuters) – The American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP filed a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the South Carolina judiciary’s ban on the “scraping” or automated collection of data from publicly accessible online repositories of filings in the state’s courts.  In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Columbia, […]

New Jersey Supreme Court affirms public right to access records on law enforcement misconduct

Doris Zhang   In back-to-back victories for government transparency and accountability, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued unanimous decisions in March ordering the disclosure of records concerning law enforcement misconduct.  In both cases, the state Supreme Court referenced arguments the Reporters Committee made in friend-of-the-court briefs urging the court to make the records public.  The two […]

From the editor: Cost for a copy of a public record in Iowa? Let’s start with free

Carol Hunter Des Moines Register May 8 2022 Advocates for Iowans’ right to know have won a rare legislative victory with passage of a bill specifying that copies of many public records should be free other than for copying costs if they can be provided in less than 30 minutes, and when fees are charged, […]

Texas Legislature considering bill to make it harder to get public information about government employees

Anna Canizales – Texas Tribune – April 20 2021 Lawmakers are considering a bill that would restrict state agencies from sharing salary data and other typically public information about government employees with the public in a bill that experts say is overly broad. Senate Bill 16, filed by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would require […]