Tags : lawsuit

Using new nonprofit law center, Hawaii’s Civil Beat wins access to police misconduct records

In the flood of paperwork that made its way each year to the Hawaii legislature, a shocking statistic slipped under the radar: About once a week the Honolulu Police Department was suspending or firing an officer for misconduct.

Often the offenses were serious – abusing suspects, lying to federal investigators, tipping off drug dealers. And for nearly two decades the information was kept quiet. Legislators paid little attention to the annual reports. Officers who resigned or got suspended for misconduct were shielded by a political loophole in the state’s public records law. Paperwork documenting the wrongdoing was often destroyed.

Civil ...

Read more ...

Behind the Story: The Boston Globe’s 4-year battle for secret settlement records

Todd Wallack

Boston Globe reporter Todd Wallack thought it would be a simple, short-term project to look into settlements made between the state of Massachusetts and some of its employees. After all, he’d done the same thing in California, uncovering an agreement between UC Davis and one of its administrators to avert a nasty lawsuit.

But the response he got from Massachusetts was completely unexpected.

“This is the first time I came across a state saying, ‘no, this is confidential,” Wallack said.

The records he initially received were heavily redacted. Officials had blacked out reams of crucial information, including names, dates ...

Read more ...

NJ court fact-finder recommends Gannett get its due for winning public records fight over PDFs

If a judge agrees with a court fact-finder, Gannett New Jersey could be getting $542,000 in legal fees stemming from a public records lawsuit.

Gannett filed suit in 2009 after several newspapers asked for municipal payroll records in an electronic format, not PDFs. In August 2012 the company won the “precedent-setting case.”

As for the legal fees, “The borough might have come out ahead if it had cut its losses in 2012, when Gannett first sought reimbursement of $495,491. As the borough continued to file motions, the media company’s legal fees continued to mount. By April 2013 ...

Read more ...

18 Chris Christie investigations coming to a publication near you

WNYC today compiled a clever list of “18 ways Christie and his officials have blocked access to information.”

The release of the subpoenaed documents “exposed the Christie Administration's involvement in Bridgegate show how the Governor's Office has been keeping its decisions and expenditures quiet despite laws that require official business to be made public.”

The state secrets include everything from visitors at the governor’s mansion to State Police overtime data to taxpayer-funded attorneys representing Christie in abuse-of-power investigations.

A handful of lawsuits have already been filed over the exemptions and redactions. We’re looking forward to the ...

Read more ...

Court rules in favor of S.D. paper, allows access to food stamp data

A federal appeals court has ruled that Argus Leader Media can seek government data on how much businesses take in from the food stamp program, the Sioux Falls, S.D. paper reported.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed a district court ruling and determined that a federal statute that created the food stamp program does not prohibit the USDA from disclosing the revenues businesses earn from it.

Last year Jonathan Ellis, of the Argus Leader, wrote about the paper’s lawsuit:

"By the start of 2011, we had assembled a national database that showed ...

Read more ...

Behind the Story: Solving the mystery of the porn copyright troll

By Dalton Barker

Researching the connection between copyright lawsuits and a porn company can be tricky -- especially while at work.

Claire Suddath, a Bloomberg reporter based in New York City, navigated the murky waters before she published her recent investigative piece: Prenda Law, the Porn Copyright Trolls.

Suddath discovered that Chicago-based Prenda Law had obtained the copyright of multiple pornographic films and was suing individuals who downloaded the films illegally.

By subpoenaing IP addresses, John Steele and Paul Hansmeier, co-founders of the firm, were able to track down illegal porn downloaders and threaten them with suits unless they settled out ...

Read more ...

Analysis: Supreme Court ruling a regressive one for access laws

In a disappointing unanimous decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can ignore public record requests from non-residents.

This is one of the most regressive, backward rulings the U.S. Supreme Court has issued on access laws for some time. Two reasons make this particularly alarming:

  • The court continues to look at public records as commodities, like lumber or turnips. The bulk of the case came down to whether the Virginia law harms business interests for those buying and selling information from outside the state. The court completely ignored the 76-page amicus brief submitted by the Reporters ...
Read more ...

Supreme Court says Virginia can limit FOIA to state residents

The U.S. Supreme Court decided unanimously today that the state of Virginia had the power to restrict public records access to residents of that state. Virginia limits freedom of information requests to its own residents and certain media outlets.

The case reached the court after Rhode Island resident Mark J. McBurney and California resident Roger W. Hurlbert sued Virginia for blocking access to public documents that an in-state resident could obtain.

They contended that the state’s practice violated the Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause and its Commerce Clause. The court ruled that Virginia’s FOIA law  “does ...

Read more ...

Transparency Watch: The Argus Leader's legal battle with USDA over food stamp data

By Jonathan Ellis, Argus Leader

Here’s a novel idea: If you take money from the federal government, the public should know how much you’re taking and for what.

That basic premise is at the heart of the Argus Leader’s lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture. The paper filed suit in 2011 seeking to force the department to turn over records of how much each business that participates in the food stamp program has earned from food stamps over the last five years. The lawsuit would force the disclosure of those records from more than 300 ...

Read more ...

Court dismisses FOIA lawsuit, upholds secrecy in drone killings of U.S. citizens

A federal court in Manhattan yesterday dismissed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit involving both The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union, who each sued the United States Department of Justice over records regarding the targeted drone killing of U.S. citizens Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan and Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman in the fall of 2012. The records in question included a memorandum from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which outlines the legal justifications for the killings.

ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a release on the ACLU website: “This ...

Read more ...