The Legal Hotline offers our members and users free, ready access to FAC’s lawyers, 1st Amendment & media law experts at the Bryan Cave law firm in San Francisco, for questions about government access—to government records; to agency and local government meetings; and to court document and proceedings.
Asked & Answered is a great resource for researching access-to-government and free speech issues, is a database of our lawyers’ answers to legal questions submitted by FAC’s users and members through the Legal Hotline consultation service. The questions and answers cover the whole waterfront of free speech and open-government issues.
On Access by Peter ScheerHillary’s email problem: A crucial lesson for government officials everywhereBY PETER SCHEER–Across the country literally thousands of state and local political officials, from governors to local school superintendents, use their personal email accounts for sending and receiving messages about government business. Hardly surprising. All public officials support government transparency in the abstract, but when it comes to their own communications, most opt for secrecy. […] ∞FAC joins environmental access suit against Marin CountyPETER SCHEER– FAC has joined a lawsuit against Marin County concerning an environmental dispute over Coho salmon. Environmentalist David Schnapf filed the CPRA suit last year, seeking records about the county’s adoption of an ordinance mandated by a countywide conservation plan. Although the 2013 measure was supposed to protect salmon flows, Schnapf and other critics […] ∞Should news outlets, social media & internet services curb public access to ISIS?BY PETER SCHEER—Any rational person viewing even a portion of an ISIS snuff video has wondered: Do these maniacs really think that they can win popular support for their cause through grisly online depictions of immolations and mass beheadings? Don’t they realize that the vast, vast majority of viewers are sickened by these images and […] ∞
1st Amendment NewsWashington Post reporter goes on trial in Tehran with no clear outcome in sightDetained on espionage charges in Iran, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian went on trial this week in a closed Tehran courtroom. The government has not released any justification for its indictment. and it is illegal to release any details of what occurs in closed-door trials. “It [the closed trial] certainly adds to concerns, and it […] ∞California Brown Act roundup: Marin school district flubbed on one of five open government issuesThe Marin County District attorney found that in response to complaints by advocates of a charter school, the Ross Valley School District did not violate the Brown Act, the state’s open government law in four out of five instances, but one committee should have held open rather than closed meetings. The DA said the public […] ∞Free speech decision allows controversial anti-Islam film to airThe Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed itself by finding that actor Cindy Lee Garcia could not force Google to remove a controversial video “Innocence of Muslims” from YouTube. Garcia was upset with the message of the film and death threats she received after trailers of the film were released. (Hollywood Reporter, May 18, […] ∞
Asked & AnsweredA&A: How can I find out if a non-profit is cooking the books?
Q: I’m pretty sure a 501(c) 3 in San Francisco is cooking its books. For example, claiming on their 990 that a certain program cost $50,000 when I think it’s more like $500. Can I demand their receipts under a FOIA request? Is there a reward for discovering and proving such scammers? A: It appears […]A&A: Do Chair’s new rules for committee members violate the Brown Act?
Q: As an appointed member of a City committee I have made several complaints to the County Air Quality District due to egregious violations of CEQA by a rogue contractor who was receiving no oversight from the city. The Chair of my committee, whose employer gets subcontracts from this “rogue contractor,” has now drafted a set of “communication protocols” […]A&A: Are blueprints of public buildings public under the CPRA?
Coalition NewsFAC amicus brief: agency can’t take back records mistakenly releasedFAC has filed an amicus brief in a case testing a local government agency’s power to take back records it has released to a requester under the CPRA. The Newark Unified School District, in releasing documents, mistakenly included records that were subject to the attorney-client privilege. The school district demanded return of the documents and […] ∞FAC sues San Diego PD for records on controversial cell phone surveillance technologyThe First Amendment Coalition today filed suit against the San Diego Police Department to obtain information about the SDPD’s purchase and use of surveillance equipment that can identify and track all cell phones in a specific location, such as a building, neighborhood or street intersection. “We believe the SDPD has an obligation to tell San […] ∞FAC leads amicus filing in case seeking access to records in hands of private firms that contract with governmentAn open-government coalition led by FAC has filed an amicus brief in a California freedom-of-information case involving access to data of government contractors that the contractors are required, under their agreements wth local government, to create and maintain. In Flynn v. Los Angeles a PRA requester seeks information in databases about the towing and storing […] ∞
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