Start here to find answers to Brown Act and Public Records Act questions
Everything you need to know about your right to copies of public records held by state and local government agencies. Concise explanations of citizens' rights under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and other authorities, with step-by-step instructions, sample request letters, discussion of potential roadblocks, and much more.Read More
Our comprehensive legal resource on your right to attend--and to participate in--the public meetings of government legislative entities, such as city councils, county boards of supervisors, and school boards. Discussion covers California's Brown Act (for local governments) and Bagley-Keene Act (for CA state agencies), with sample "cure & correct" demand letters, and more.Read More
Asked & Answered
Asked & Answered (A&A) is FAC's searchable database of our lawyers' written answers to questions, posed by users like you, about their rights under public records laws, open-government laws, and first amendment safeguards. Perfect for drilling down on legal issues so you can find thorough, well-reasoned answers that address your concerns and your issues.Read More
The Legal Hotline is our free legal consultation service, giving you access to FAC's expert lawyers for answers to legal questions. Ask a question about public records; about your right to attend government meetings and court proceedings; about freedom of speech; freedom of the press, and related issues. FAC's lawyers will email their answer directly to you. And yes, the Hotline is really free.Read More
FIRST AMENDMENT NEWS
Headline News / Coalition News/ Commentary/ Asked & Answered
1st Amendment News
- Texas U.S. attorney dismisses main charges against journalist indicted for posting hyperlink
Federal prosecutors are scaling down their case against journalist Barrett Brown indicted in 2012 for posting a hyperlink to hacked documents that included e-mail address and credit card information of thousands of people. (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, March 5, 2014, by Michael Rooney) Brown is still charged with possessing devices with “unauthorized […]
- California Supreme Court seems ready to rule for disclosure of names of police officers involved in shootings
A police union may well lose its appeal of a ruling in favor of releasing the names of police officers involved in shootings. Attorneys for the officers argued in California’s Supreme Court that releasing the names would put officers at risk and violate their personnel rights. Several comments by justices during oral arguments indicated they […]
- U.S. Supreme Court grants whistleblower protection to private contractors
The Supreme Court interpreted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act shield for whistleblowers to include employees of private contractors and subcontractors in a 6-3 decision. Plaintiffs in the case said that the mutual fund advisory and management company employing them fired them for pointing out possible securities fraud in publicly traded Fidelity mutual funds. Writing for the majority, […]
- Unauthorized video taken in Supreme Court session
Supreme Court decorum was breached last week when a man in the audience stood to denounce the Court’s Citizens United decision and a video of the incident was posted online. The Court does not allow video coverage of its hearings. (The New York Times, February 27, 2014, by Adam Liptak) The video was posted on […]
- In settlement with FAC, LA County Jail releases inmate visitor log, agrees to relax secrecy rule
SCHEER–As part of a legal settlement with the First Amendment Coalition, the Los Angeles County Jail has agreed to pull back its veil of secrecy on the identities of persons who visit incarcerated public officials. The jail’s prior policy had been to withhold—on grounds of privacy-protection–the names of visitors to all jail inmates. Going forward, […]
- FAC leads Amicus brief urging CA Supreme Ct to require public access in commitment hearings
When a county tries to commit a person, against his will, to a psychiatric facility, may that judicial proceeding–which involves lawyers, a judge and a jury trial—be held behind closed doors, with no access at all for the press and public? A California appellate court recently held that such proceedings not only may be secret, […]
- Supreme Court to hold oral argument in FAC case this Wednesday at Boalt Hall. Be there!
Have a few hours to spare this Wednesday, Oct. 9? The California Supreme Court will hear arguments in FAC’s lawsuit against the State Bar (Case No. S194951), starting at 10am. The hearing is being held, not at the Court’s courtroom, but at the UC Berkeley School of Law, Room 215, Boalt Hall. FAC Board member […]
- Victory for newspaper publisher Tim Crews and FAC in Appeals Court decision
A state Court of Appeal has ruled that small-town California newspaper publisher Tim Crews does not have to pay legal fees to a school board he sued over his public records request. The unanimous decision (see Court of Appeal’s opinion below) represents a crucial victory for government transparency and a welcome success for the First […]
- Maybe summoning the press before Parliament isn’t such a bad idea
By Edward Wasserman Alan Rusbridger, editor of London’s Guardian, faced off with British legislators last week about his newspaper’s publishing secrets about official surveillance that were leaked by the fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden. Press advocates weren’t pleased. Carl Bernstein, the Watergate-era star who’s on the Mount Rushmore of 20th century media heroes, certainly […]
- Climate change on trial in a defamation case
COMMENTARY BY JEAN-PAUL JASSY/ A modern-day Scopes Monkey Trial is unfolding in a District of Columbia defamation case. In 1925, two of the most famous lawyers of the time, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, argued over whether John T. Scopes should have been prosecuted for teaching evolution in public school. Scopes was convicted and […]
- Media heroism turned on its head: The real Manning scandal
BY EDWARD WASSERMAN–In media mythology, the years from the mid-‘60s to the mid-’70s were the classical age, a heroic time of moral clarity. Mainstream journalism marinated in adversarialism. Little Southern newspapers infuriated their own readers by staring down segregation. Foreign correspondents forced upon an unwilling public the realities of a brutal war. Network news ignored […]
- Instead of delays at all airports, let's sequester Congress and shut down the airports serving D.C.
BY PETER SCHEER–U.S. aviation officials are warning of severe flight delays due to furloughs of air traffic controllers triggered by the sequester’s across-the-board budget cuts. I have a better idea. Instead of furloughing controllers across the country, the Federal Aviation Administration should just shut down all major airports for the nation’s capital: Reagan National, Dulles […]
Asked & Answered
- A&A: Can a news photographer be threatened with arrest while covering a protest?
Q: As a newspaper photographer, I was covering a protest over Cal Trans clearing trees alongside the Highway just outside of town. Then a CHP officer drove up and approached me saying ”you have to leave the area.” Then I asked the officer if I could walk just to the side and take a […]
- A&A: Can I be charged fees for downloading court records posted online?
Q: Riverside Superior Court changes fees to search and acquire court records through its website. This wasn’t always the case. Several years ago this service was provided for free, and that seems to still be the case in other counties. For the past three budget years, these fees have meant additional annual revenue for the […]
- A&A: Do legal fees count under pending litigation CPRA exemption?
Q: My records request for the documents showing how much money the county has spent on a current and ongoing lawsuit. The County states that the information revealing the total money spent is privileged because the case is in active litigation. It would appear to me that no privileged information concerning the case would be […]
- A&A: When should "anticipated litigation" be agendized?
Q: In 2010 our City Council was contacted BY the IRS about a series of Build America Bonds that the City had received. The IRS felt that the money was spent improperly (by spending on acquiring an undeveloped parcel related to an unrelated legal settlement rather than by initiating a ”shovel ready” project). The IRS […]