Peter Scheer

As he leaves the Justice Dept, AG Holder is buffing his 1st Amendment credentials

BY PETER SCHEER–Attorney General Eric Holder’s relationship with the press over the last six years has been contentious, to put it mildly. Holder and his lieutenants in the Justice Department have been zealous in their pursuit of suspected leakers of national security information–and those investigations inevitably led to battles with journalists over information about their […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

The attacks in Paris are a clarifying moment for freedom of speech

BY PETER SCHEER–The terrorist attacks in Paris, for all their horror and barbarity, are a clarifying event. Freedom of speech, we can all see, is the ultimate soft target, as vulnerable as it is precious. The terrorists came first for journalists, selecting the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to rid the world of satire, irreverence and […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

Short Takes: government email, historical police records, fee awards against requesters

BY PETER SCHEER–Despite the dysfunction in Washington, Congress occasionally surprises with a modest piece of legislation that points the way for California and many other states. So it is with a 2014 Federal Records Act amendment which addresses this question: Suppose a federal employee, using his own personal text or email account, sends a message […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

Can local legislators speak freely to voters? The answer should be an emphatic “yes.” Too often the answer given is “maybe.”

BY PETER SCHEER–Local government, Republicans and Democrats agree, is the most democratic (with a small d) form of government. The closer government is to the people, the theory goes, the more accountable it is to voters and the more responsive to the public will. Congress is the most remote, hence least accountable; your local city […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

The first amendment is in trouble when EU bureaucrats get to decide what US citizens can read on US-based websites

BY PETER SCHEER–Freedom of speech suffered a serious blow when, last May, the European Union’s highest court, in the so-called “Right to be Forgotten” decision,  ruled that Google must remove search results that infringe individual citizens’ privacy rights under EU law. A first amendment red line had been crossed. A major publisher of information–which is […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

Court decision on anti-Islam video is potentially hazardous to investigative journalism

BY PETER SCHEER—Video journalists and documentary filmmakers can breathe easier because of the suspension of a recent appeals court decision that interpreted federal copyright law in a way that might have handed a censor’s power to the subjects of interviews. The case, Garcia v. Google,  concerns  “Innocence of Muslims,” a highly inflammatory film—actually, a 13-minute […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

Water district, in settlement with FAC, agrees to disclose water usage by corporations

A Southern California water district, as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the First Amendment Coalition, has agreed to tell the public how much water each of its corporate customers is pumping from underground aquifers. The Desert Water Agency in Palm Springs had published this information in past years, but changed policy […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

If the federal FOIA shared the limitations of California’s public records law, large parts of American history would be blank.

Fortunately, the California Legislature didn’t have a hand in crafting the federal Freedom of Information Act. If it had, the American people would have been denied the primary source material for a large chunk of recent American history.Much of what we know about the major themes of US political history during the 35 years following […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

FAC’s letter to Gov Brown, urging veto of SB 1300

Here is FAC’s letter to the Governor, urging his veto of SB 1300:   Dear Governor Brown, On behalf of the First Amendment Coalition (FAC), I am writing to request your veto—or, alternatively, a qualified signing–of Senate Bill 1300, which requires oil companies to file reports on scheduled shutdowns, typically for maintenance, of their refinery […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

Gov Brown, Veto SB 1300. Ostensibly about oil refineries, SB 1300 threatens public access rights.

If you were trying to sabotage California’s open records law, you couldn’t do much better than SB 1300, a bill that has been approved by the Legislature and is now on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, awaiting his signature. Tell him that if he cares at all about the Public Records Act and making government transparent […]

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