1st Amendment News

Virginia Supreme Court finds climate scientist’s e-mails private

The Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that the University of Virginia did not have to release the e-mails of climate scientist Michael Mann formerly a professor at the university. The lower court had ruled that the e-mails were of a “proprietary” nature and thereby exempt from disclosure under the state’s Freedom of […]

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U.S. Supreme Court justices criticize Ohio law criminalizing political lies

The U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to throw out an Ohio law banning lies during election campaigns. An anti-abortion group sued in federal court on the grounds that the law chills free speech. Those found guilty of violating the law could pay a fine of $5,000 and six months in jail. Justices seemed unimpressed by […]

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Transparency triumphs in federal court order to open records on safety complaint

The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the unsealing of a consumer safety case that a manufacturer claimed would damage its reputation and “fiscal health.” The court held that the public’s right to know outweighed the company’s concerns. (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, April 17, 2014, by Jamie Schuman) In 2012 a […]

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Freedom of information: Obama administration restricts contact with media on intelligence matters

National Security Director Jame Clapper has banned federal intelligence employees from discussing any contact with reporters even if the matter is unclassified. Those violating the rules would lose their security clearances or jobs and be prosecuted if discussing classified information. (McClatchyDC, April 21, 2014, by Jonathan S. Landay) First revealed by Steven Aftergood of Secrecy […]

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Obama administration loses key federal appeals court decision over secret memo justifying drone strikes

A New York federal appeals court ruled that given the federal government’s public statements and release of a white paper on the issue, it had waived its right to keep secret a Justice Department memo justifying the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen in a drone strike in 2011. The New York Times and the […]

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Government critics rankled by free speech zone established for Nevada ranch protest

Citizens turning out in support of a rancher’s refusal to pay 20-year’s worth of grazing fees to the federal government were incensed to find that they were restricted to a free speech zone. They and free speech advocates consider the zones “an inappropriate infringement of free speech.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 17, 2014, by Sean […]

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Free speech: Federal appeals court rules against conflict-mineral Internet disclosure

The Washington, D.C. U.S. Circuit ruled that the government could not force firms to reveal on their websites if they were using “conflict minerals” from the Congo. Militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have financed rape and plunder by selling gold, tantalum, tin and tungsten. The ruling upheld the regulations requiring reporting on […]

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Federal Judge rules in FAC case: US can keep secret a legal memo on drone strikes targeting US citizen

In a national security case brought by the First Amendment Coalition, a federal judge has ruled that the Obama administration does not have to disclose a Justice Department legal memo explaining the legal rationale for drone strikes and, in particular, drone strikes abroad against suspected terrorists who are also US citizens. FAC’s suit, based on […]

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Judges afford First Amendment protection to flashing lights warning of speed traps

A federal judge in Oregon was the most recent judge to rule that flashing your lights on a freeway to warn other motorists of a speed trap was protected speech under the First Amendment. The traffic court judge held that the sheriff’s deputy had acted improperly in arresting the driver for “expressive conduct” protected under […]

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NSA surveillance campaign under fire for lack of transparency

A media coalition is bolstering efforts to challenge the National Security Agency’s National Security Letters program, particularly the non-disclosure provision that they claim constitutes prior restraint of journalists reporting about the program. The FBI routinely issues the letters to phone companies and Internet service providers with non-disclosure orders gagging them from discussing the letters. (Reporters […]

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