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Former FAC Executive Director Peter Scheer Awarded Society of Professional Journalists Career Achievement Prize

Peter Scheer, Executive Director, First Amendment CoalitionFormer First Amendment Coalition executive director Peter Scheer has been named the 2017 recipient of the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists’ career achievement award–a signal honor marking his advocacy, over many years, for free speech, a free press and the public’s right to know.

Scheer, 65, will accept the Norwin S. Yoffie Award for Career Achievement on March 22 at the annual James Madison Freedom of Information Awards in San Francisco.

Scheer led FAC from 2004 until January 1 of this year–a period in which FAC brought a number of groundbreaking cases to preserve and expand the public’s right to know.

His work led to the disclosure of countless once-secret government records, including the management fees paid by CALPERS, California’s public-employee retirement system, to private equity and hedge funds; memos by the United States Department of Justice on the legality of killing U.S. citizens by weaponized drone strikes; and GIS basemaps that government officials had contended could be withheld from the public based on copyright law.

The latter led to a landmark decision by the California Court of Appeal–one of several such decisions by California appellate courts during Scheer’s tenure as FAC’s executive director, including a decision by the California Supreme Court establishing the legal principle that a public right of access applies to admissions records of the California State Bar.  Other FAC lawsuits filed under the CPRA resulted in disclosure of records about: high-tech surveillance devices used by local police; calendars of the governor and the governor’s top aides; government officials’ use of private email accounts to avoid disclosure of public records; names of visitors to jails and prisons to meet with incarcerated public officials.

During his time at FAC’s helm, Scheer also expanded and improved FAC’s Legal Hotline, as well as its education and advocacy programs, while becoming a “go to” source for journalists seeking expert knowledge on all issues relating to the First Amendment’s guarantees of free speech and a free press.

“The awards committee had an easy choice this year, and could not have picked a more deserving recipient,” said FAC executive director David Snyder.  “Peter’s knowledge of the law in this area is surpassed only by his creative and tireless advocacy for the First Amendment.”

Before leading FAC, Scheer served as editor and publisher of The Recorder newspaper in San Francisco, publisher of Legal Times in Washington, DC, and CEO of the legal information site law.com.  He also practiced appellate law for many years in Washington, DC, in both private practice and the US Justice Department.

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