The First Amendment Coalition was named a 2020 recipient of the James Madison Freedom of Information Award given by the Society of Professional Journalists’ NorCal Chapter in recognition of organizations and individuals who have advanced principles of free speech and open government.
In recognizing FAC as the nonprofit awardee, SPJ NorCal highlighted FAC’s strategic litigation in Northern California and beyond that led to greater access to government records.
From SPJ NorCal’s announcement:
When San Francisco police raided freelance journalist Bryan Carmody’s home and office and seized his notes, records and professional equipment, FAC jumped in immediately and led a legal fight to unseal the affidavits used to justify the search, later suing Mayor London Breed for records related to the raid. At the same time, FAC has been at the forefront of numerous battles over the scope of California’s new landmark policy transparency law. In the California Supreme Court, meanwhile, FAC challenged the governor’s practice of keeping entire files of clemency proceedings under seal.
Also among this year’s honorees are two FAC board directors, media lawyers Duffy Carolan, of Jassy Vick Carolan, and Thomas R. Burke, of Davis Wright Tremaine, both of whom were recognized for their roles in court following the Carmody raid. Carolan represented FAC, SPJ NorCal and others in the successful effort to make public search warrant records, while Burke defended Carmody’s rights, getting the warrants quashed.
Awardees will be honored at a ceremony on Thursday, March 19 in San Francisco. Event information can be found here. UPDATE: This dinner has been postponed with a new date to be announced.