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Federal judge breaks seal on court records in Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case

Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune October 26, 2009 By Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press A federal judge ordered most court records in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case in Salt Lake City released for public scrutiny. The judge cited concerns about a fair trial in keeping some records sealed including competency reports on the kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell.  A number of  news organizations including the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune has asked the court to release the

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Free speech or discrimination? U.S. Supreme Court holds wedding cake hearing

There’s no telling how the Supreme Court is leaning as Justice Anthony Kennedy with his usual swing vote gave contradictory messages once indicating refusing to bake cakes for gay couples was discriminatory and another in pointing out that the Colorado state civil rights commission did not give the baker’s religious beliefs a fair hearing. The baker Jack Phillips is contending that baking a cake for a gay couple would be a forced endorsement of their

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Reporter in Aurora shooting case loses ground in fight to protect sources

A Fox News reporter lost a round in court when a New York state appeals judes ruled 3-2 that she had to reveal her sources in covering the 2012 shooting in a movie theater near Denver. The close decision means that the reporter Jana Winter can appeal. (Reuters, August 21, 2013, by Joseph Ax) Winter cited law enforcement sources in reporting that James Holmes, the defendant in the shooting, sent a psychiatrist a notebook of

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First Amendment advocate criticizes prosecutor’s subpoena of personal records in Innocence Project

Gene Policinski of the First Amendment Center says Chicago’s Cook County investigation of Medill ‘Innocence Project’ could chill students’ reporting, and time spent on the investigation would be better spent investigating the evidence presented by the students that a man was wrongly convicted of murder. -DB First Amendment Center Commentary November 15, 2009 By Gene Policinski A scene in the 1987 movie “The Untouchables” shows Sean Connery as a Chicago beat cop instructing federal agent Kevin

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White House releases logs showing visits by medical industry executives

Under pressure, the Obama administration released logs of White House visits of medical industry executives just after the inauguration, fueling speculation that the industry gained concessions in the private meetings. -DB First Amendment Center July 23, 2009 By The Associated Press WASHINGTON, D.C. — Administration officials began talking privately to major players in the health care industry within a few weeks of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, a newly released list of White House visitors shows. During

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Federal appeals court supports transparency for overseas drone strikes

A federal court dealt the Obama administration a major setback over its attempts to shroud overseas drone strikes in secrecy. Calling the CIA’s reasoning in withholding information indefensible and a fiction, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia revived an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit asking for CIA records. (Reuters, March 1, 2013, by David Ingram) There were strong arguments that the administration had already acknowledged the information was of vital interest

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Documentary filmmakers gain access to courtroom in First Amendment case

Citing viewpoint discrimination, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Los Angeles County Superior Court illegally barred filmmakers access to a courtroom to film scenes from of a documentary on judicial corruption. (Judicial Watch, August 4, 2014, press release) In the 3-0 finding, the court agreed that the Los Angeles Superior Court denied access because of the nature of the documentary, “The empty courtroom that the plaintiffs sought to access to film their

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Anti-SLAPP law used against citizens legislature intended to protect

The Redding Record Searchlight says that when Shasta County uses an anti-SLAPP law to sue a citizen seeking redress of grievance, it constitutes a regrettable development for a law intended to protect the right of citizens to speak out on controversial issues. -DB The Redding Record Searchlight Opinion October 5, 2009 Leave it to the lawyers. In 1992, the state passed a law aimed at protecting citizens who speak their minds on controversial issues from expensive,

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Wikileaks: Need seen for altering national security classification system

Secrecy News’ Steven Aftergood sees much to criticize about Wikileaks’ indiscriminate release of classified U.S. government documents but says the release highlights the need to reexamine classification policies. -db Secrecy News Commentary November 29, 2010 By Steven Aftergood The massive disclosure of a quarter million diplomatic records by Wikileaks this weekend underscores the precarious state of the U.S. national security classification system. The Wikileaks project seems to be, more than anything else, an assault on

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U.S. Supreme Court makes life tougher for patent trolls

The U..S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to patent trolls with two 9-0 rulings. “For practical purposes, the two cases mean that lower courts will have more latitude to use legal fee shifting as a way to punish and deter companies that abuse the patent system,” wrote Jeff John Roberts in GIGAOM, April 29, 2014. As a result of the decisions, patent trolls would be discouraged for pursuing a marginal intellectual property case that imposes

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Australia Broadcasting Corporation reports key desertion rendering WikiLeaks impotent

The Australia Broadcasting Corporation reports that the future of WikiLeaks is threatened as a key figure in the organization called “The Architect” left the organization taking with him the submission system or drop box which was his creation. Now WikiLeaks has no way to receive submissions from whistleblowers and protect their identities. WhistleLeaks founder Julian Assange denied that the organization was in crisis. -db From the Australia Broadcasting Corporation, October 4, 2011, by Andrew Fowler

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Tribute: Civil rights leader left legacy of First Amendment gains

The civil rights leader, Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, who died last week, made a lasting contribution to First Amendment law in winning a judgment by the U.S. Supreme Court that Birmingham’s ordinance requiring a parade permit was prior restraint and unconstitutional. -db From a commentary for the First Amendment Center, October 7, 2011, by David L. Hudson Jr. Full story

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Opinion: Federal judge said to weaken protection for anonymous speech

A Lebonese conglomerate with ties to Hezbollah won a judgment in federal court allowing a supoena to ISP Skybeam a host of anonymous postings that the conglomerate claim defamed them. The conglomerate is seeking to identify those responsible for the posts that alleged that to buy from the fashion company owned by the conglomerate provided support for terrorism. Paul Alan Levy explains that Public Citizen has taken up the appeal in the case out of

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Federal appeals court rules against ban on photos at immigration ports of entry

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 that political activists had a First Amendment right to take photos at ports of entry in areas open to the public. The Border Patrol had been confiscating cell phones and erasing photos and posted signs banning all photography at certain sites. (San Francisco Chronicle, August 14, 2018, by Bob Egelko) The Ninth Circuit panel said the activists could proceed with their lawsuit against Homeland Security.

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Los Angeles County postpones release of salary information of highest-paid employees

A Los Angeles County lawyer said they are delaying the release of the names and salaries of its highest paid employees out of concern for the workers’ safety. -db Los Angeles Times September 27, 2010 By Rong-Gong Lin II Los Angeles County officials are taking steps to keep secret the names and salaries of some highly paid county employees, saying they need more time to comply with public records law to protect workers who claim

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‘Hurt Locker’ producers cite First Amendments protections in dispute with Iraq war vet

Producers of the Oscar winning “The Hurt Locker” have filed a motion to dismiss a suit brought by an Iraq war veteran who said the filmmakers ripped off his life story. -db Yahoo!News June 15, 2010 By Eriq Gardner, Reuters LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Producers of “The Hurt Locker” are firing back against the Iraq War veteran who claimed that his life story was ripped off to create the Academy Award-winning drama. Master Sgt.

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Mississippi Supreme Court: No quorum, no meeting

The Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that a local government may not evade state open meeting laws by holding a meeting with fewer than a quorum. The dispute stemmed from a 2014 incident during which the Columbus city council set up meetings with three council members and the mayor to discuss maintenance of public buildings and an agreement with an economic development agency. (Gulfport Sun Herald, September 7, 2017, by Jeff Amy of the Associated

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Times meeting with Trump produces no end to war with press

New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger met with President Donald Trump and failed to convince Trump to curtail his anti-press rhetoric which Sulzberger said was damaging the public’s commitment to free speech and press. After the meeting Trump resumed his attacks on the New York Times and Washington Post calling them “anti-Trump haters” intent on writing “bad stories even on very positive achievements.” (CNBC, July 30, 2018, by Javier E. David with contributions from The

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Sotomayor indicates support for cameras in Supreme Court

In Senate confirmation hearings, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor said she favored camera access in the high court but said should she be confirmed she would act with circumspection in making her views known to the Court. -DB First Amendment Center Analysis July 16, 2009 By Tony Mauro WASHINGTON, D.C. — If the Senate confirms Sonia Sotomayor as the next justice on the Supreme Court, she may become the most unabashed supporter of camera access the

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