Access to Gov't Information

Opening the Government, Starting with the Transition

I’m a signer of a letter on a new site called “An Open Transition,” where a group of folks led by Larry Lessig:

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Celebrating Open Access Day

I am sitting in the Berkman Center's conference room listening to Stephen Schultze give an impassioned appeal to increase public access to government information, especially federal court records.  You can listen to his talk through a live webcast feed. Here is a summary of Steve's presentation:

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Copyright Challenge in New Push for Open Government Data

Carl Malamud, a hero in providing access to information, has posted online the 38-volume California Code of Regulations, over which the state claims copyright ownership. He's been doing things like this for a while, but the California code is a big deal in every respect.

The Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat has the story.

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Ohio Takes a Page from the Sunshine Review

In an effort to goad Ohio officials into making more state records available online, the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a private policy think tank, created the Center for Transparent and Accountable Government earlier this week.

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Levitt v. New York City Police Department

Date: 

01/10/2007

Threat Type: 

Denial of Access

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Leonard Levitt

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County

Legal Counsel: 

Corey Stoughton, Christopher Dunn, Arthur Eisenberg - New York Civil Liberties Union

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

On January 10, 2007, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) notified Leonard Levitt, a journalist and blogger who operates NYPD Confidential, that it would not renew his press credentials. 

Before this denial, Levitt had held NYPD press credentials for twenty-seven years, according to the New York Times. Levitt's petition in New York state court indicates that NYPD Confidential is

a news gathering organization that covers spot or breaking news events on a regular basis. [Mr. Levitt] provides in-depth investigative reporting of NYPD events, often exposing behavior and events the NYPD would rather be shielded from the public.

As explained in a New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) press release, Mr. Levitt believes that the NYPD denied him credentials in retaliation for his critical views about the department.

After the NYPD confirmed the denial of his press pass on appeal, Mr. Levitt asked the department for more information regarding its credentialing policies and procedures, and it allegedly refused to comply. Levitt and the NYCLU subsequently filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the NYPD, asking for documents related to its policies and procedures governing press passes, and documents related to the department's denial of Mr. Levitt's application. The NYPD did not produce any responsive documents and denied an administrative appeal. In response, on February 20, 2008, Levitt and the NYCLU filed a lawsuit in New York to compel production of the requested documents.

The NYPD turned over the requested documents in June 2008. 

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1-High

CMLP Notes: 

JMC Editing - 7/14/2008

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Threat Source: 

Listserv

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New York Legislature Passes Open Records and Open Meetings Reforms

The New York Legislature recently passed several open records and open meetings reforms, adding New York to the long list of states that have taken steps to revamp their open government laws this year.

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Watchdog Group Counters Attorney General’s View of Improved FOIA Picture

A recent report by the U.S. Attorney General paints a mixed but generally positive picture of progress by the federal executive agencies in improving their responsiveness to Freedom of Information Act requests.

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Holding Government Accountable One Click at a Time

“Laws are like sausages. You should never watch them being made.” This adage, generally attributed to Otto von Bismarck, rings true to anyone who has had the opportunity to watch Congress make public policy. Just tune into C-SPAN sometime for a taste.

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RI Bill Will Strengthen Citizens' FOI Rights

After passing state bill H7422 last week, Rhode Island is set to join the growing list of states – including Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Oregon – that have strengthened their

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Supreme Court Rejects FOIA Restrictions

In a rare Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) decision, the Supreme Court recently held in Taylor v. Sturgell that an individual's failed FOIA request does not preclude similar requests from related individuals.

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Illinois ARDC v. Avvo, Inc.

Date: 

06/11/2008

Threat Type: 

Denial of Access

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Avvo, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Illinois Supreme Court

Legal Counsel: 

Steven F. Pflaum - McDermott Will & Emery LLP

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Avvo, which operates a consumer legal directory (www.avvo.com), sought registration and disciplinary information for all lawyers licensed in Illinois. The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), an agency of the Illinois Supreme Court, maintains this information. Avvo's request was refused. Avvo notes that the ARDC makes this information available to the public via its website, provided the person searching knows the lawyer's name. Avvo limited its request to a list of names of all lawyers licensed in Illinois. The ARDC again refused. Avvo has now brought a motion in the Illinois Supreme Court seeking the records.

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CMLP Notes: 

Updated 2/12/09 - VAF

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Threat Source: 

User Submission Form

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Bill Will Revamp Tennessee Open Records Law

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen is expected to sign into law a recently passed bill that would provide a much-needed overhaul of the state's open records practices.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: Access to Courts and Court Records

This is the eighth in a series of posts calling attention to topics we cover in the Citizen Media Legal Guide. In this post, we highlight the section on Access to Courts and Court Records, which provides an overview of federal and state laws that grant you the right to access federal and state court records and court proceedings.

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Pennsylvania's Upcoming Right-To-Know Law

Here at the Citizen Media Law Project we recently finished the fourth major section of our Legal Guide on Access to Government Information.

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Oregon Claims Copyright in Its Statutes -- Well, Sort Of

Just last week, I was ruminating on the viability of state claims of copyright in government records. At the time, I was pretty confident that a state wouldn't be crazy enough to claim copyright in its own statutes, both because caselaw suggests this would be legally invalid and because it would be shoddy public policy.

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The Smoking Gun Does the Dirty Work, Finds the Gems Others Miss

The New York Times just ran a fascinating article on The Smoking Gun, a website dedicated to providing "documents--cool, confidential, quirky--that can't be found elsewhere on the Web." The three-person investigative shop in mid-town Manhattan consistently finds -- and publishes -- court documents, government records, and other esoterica that it finds through

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