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Asked & Answered

A&A is a searchable database of questions posed by users like you about their rights under open government laws and First Amendment safeguards that have been answered by FAC’s attorneys—all First Amendment and government access specialists at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP, an international law firm with offices in San Francisco.

A&A: Can I sue New York City for restricting my religious freedom during the coronavirus pandemic?

SUBMITTED | JULY 9, 2020 Q: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, churches and church members have been banned far too long from practicing their religious beliefs. I had to cancel my wedding. I had to cancel my daughter’s baptism. It was of great importance to my family since we were naming her after my 95-year-old grandmother. A day to honor my grandmother and bless my child. We no longer have the right to do this in New York City. The mayor has given the privilege to violent protestors and criminals over the lawful citizen and has openly told us we don’t

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A&A: Is it a Brown Act violation to hold a virtual meeting without telephone access for those without the internet?

Q: Our County held an online public meeting as required by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), but failed to provide a phone number for anyone who might not have online access. Is this a Brown Act violation? A: In March, California Governor Newsom issued executive orders N-25-20 and N-29-20, which temporarily suspend any Brown Act requirements “expressly or impliedly requiring the physical presence of members, the clerk or other personnel of the body, or of the public as a condition of participation in or quorum for a public meeting” during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, Order N-29-20 states:  “A local . . . body . . . that

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A&A: What can be done about the California Legislature keeping the public out of the Capitol during COVID-19 pandemic?

SUBMITTED | MAY 5, 2020 Q: The Legislature reopened May 4 and bills are being discussed, amended, and voted on with zero public allowed in the Capitol or to meet with their representatives. I want to put them on notice that they cannot do this. I also want to discuss whether using 18USC S242; 18USC S245; and 42USC S1983 is possible to tell them they are acting outside the scope of law and will be personally liable for damages. California’s governor has abused his power for seven weeks and now the Legislature is helping it continue. The people were never

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A&A: The mayor blocked people on Facebook after they posted comments in support of Black Lives Matter. Is that illegal?

SUBMITTED | JUNE 5, 2020 Q: The mayor of a California city posted some troubling and inaccurate messages about the Black Lives Matter movement on the eve of June 3rd. I responded to her and myself (and numerous others) were blocked by her. She has used this account to discuss city-related matters with residents before. Before I posted to Facebook, I thankfully had copied and pasted my comments onto a document. I know that SCOTUS ruled that Trump was not allowed to block people as his social media account had been used to disseminate information before. I was wondering if

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A&A: Is It Illegal for a Congressional Candidate to Block Political Opponents from Their Twitter Feed?

Q: A candidate running for Congress has blocked one of his opponents from viewing his Twitter feed. Is that illegal? I know it’s unconstitutional for an elected official to block people on Twitter if they are discussing public business. Does that apply to candidates, too? A: As you can imagine, this issue has not been extensively litigated, so the state of the law is still in flux. Preliminarily, however, I can tell you that the First Amendment only protects against government incursions on speech. That is, for the First Amendment to be implicated, you have to show that the person curtailing speech

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A&A: Does the California Public Records Act Allow Agencies to Extend Deadline for Retrieving Records from 14-Days to Months?

Q: I submitted a public records request about six weeks ago. The state agency responded promptly requesting a lengthy extension. Are they allowed to ask for so much time to gather records? When are they only allowed a 14-day extension and when can they claim they need more time? I did not push when they asked for more time because I was busy with other projects. Now I’m wondering, should I have been more assertive when they asked for a six-week extension? A: The California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) gives public agencies the option of extending the 10-day deadline in

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