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News and views from FAC's Executive Director.

After near-death in Supreme Court, will public employee unions change their ways?

BY PETER SCHEER—Public employee unions, the most powerful special interest group in California and most other states, came within a heartbeat of losing that power, as a legal challenge by dissident public school teachers came to a close in the US Supreme Court this week. I use the word “heartbeat” somewhat literally, because it is […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

Apple is right: the order requiring it to create code to defeat iPhone security is “coerced speech” forbidden by the 1st Amdt

BY PETER SCHEER—The court battle between the FBI and Apple presents an important first amendment issue: whether the government can force a company to engage in expression—to wit, the writing of computer code—-that the company not only objects to, but views as inimical to its interests and its customers’ interests. Apple claims that this coercion […]

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News and views from FAC's Executive Director.

FAC sues Sonoma County to unlock secret Super Bowl promo deal

The First Amendment Coalition today filed suit to make public the terms of a Sonoma County agency’s contract to promote county wines to football  fans visiting the Bay Area for the February 7 Super Bowl. FAC filed a public records request for the contract, under which the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, together with organizations representing […]

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News and views from FAC's Executive Director.

FAC suit against San Diego yields previously secret records on police use of invasive cell phone surveillance tool

The Stingray is a controversial cell phone surveillance tool used by police departments in major US cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and San Diego.  Also known as an “IMSI catcher,” the Stingray operates by mimicking a cell phone tower, which causes cell phones in the vicinity to transmit information revealing their […]

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News and views from FAC's Executive Director.

SCOTUS is about to bring down hammer on public sector unions. That will be good for democracy, not so good for freedom of speech.

BY PETER SCHEER–Sometime during the next few months, the US Supreme Court will issue a decision that could profoundly weaken public employee unions in California and across the country. By all accounts, the justices, in the oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, signalled that they are poised to rule that workers’ payment of […]

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News and views from FAC's Executive Director.

US Supreme Court ‘government speech’ rulings should curb government misuse of anti-SLAPP laws

BY PETER SCHEER–Does the first amendment apply to government speech? In recent decisions, the Supreme Court has answered that question in the negative.  Constitutional free speech protections apply to people (and corporations and other private legal entities), but they do not limit or regulate governmental speech, the Court declared. The implications of this doctrine are […]

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News and views from FAC's Executive Director.

Whining college students need lessons in tolerance and free speech

BY PETER SCHEER—There’s nothing like the massacre of 129 Parisian civilians at the hands of jihadi sociopaths, utterly convinced that their barbarism manifests the will of God, to provide some perspective on the recent whinings of students at a number of America’s most elite colleges and universities. For the past few weeks, students across the […]

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News and views from FAC's Executive Director.

Brown signs anti-sunshine bill, setting up 1st Amdt battle. Do labor rights trump democracy?

BY PETER SCHEER—-Jerry Brown is often praised for his political independence, for his willingness to make policy choices that he thinks are right on the merits, even if it means angering powerful constituencies. But there are limits. They were reached in the latest legislative term in the Governor’s decision to sign legislation drafted and backed […]

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Time to Bring California’s Open Meeting Law into the 21st Century

BY PETER SCHEER—-California’s open meeting law, the Brown Act, was enacted four decades before the arrival of the internet, a quarter century before the first commercial fax machines, and even a few years before “xerox” copying went mainstream. In all the years since, the Brown Act has been amended in ways big and small, but […]

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On Access by Peter Scheer

SB 331, a secrecy bill masquerading as a transparency bill, deserves a veto

BY PETER SCHEER–I’m always suspicious of legislation that increases government secrecy. But what really gets my attention is legislation that purports to make government more transparent—when in fact its true purpose and effect are just the opposite. SB 331, which is awaiting the Governor’s signature, is just such a sham: an official secrecy act masquerading […]

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