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One of my doc students, a recovering lawyer named Jon Peters, recently published a most interesting piece in the Harvard Law & Policy Review on Wikileaks, the First Amendment and the Press.

Now Forbes has picked it up as well…and Wikileaks itself tweeted it….and the rest, as they say, is history. Jon, you’re a media law rock star!


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A Fine Mess in Illinois…

An opinion by the Illinois Attorney General calling for the release of results of medical testing on prison guards who filed successful workers’ compensation claims speaks of the public’s fundamental right to know how its money is spent.

Despite this broad language, this single decision announced Monday in response to a Belleville News-Democrat Freedom of Information request is limited. It cannot legally compel the state’s Central Management Services to release other basic records that relate to how taxpayer money is spent on workers’ compensation claims, said attorney general spokeswoman Natalie Bauer.

Bauer said that Central Management Services, or CMS, contends it can withhold virtually all financial and other records related to workers’ compensation based on a state law that allows “proprietary” information regarding the operation of an “insurance pool” to be off limits to the public.

Read more:

Wonder How Often This is Happening?

Cleveland Scene does a fine job of illuminating an example of a rather troubling trend…

Five years before Cuyahoga County Recorder Pat O’Malley resigned in May 2008 — one of the first dominoes to fall in the county’s ongoing shame game — he quietly closed a deal that garnered little interest at the time. It was a pact with Data Trace, a California company that specializes in snapping up title and tax documents, then customizing and re-selling the information.

Ohio law provides that anyone may receive a copy of any document filed with a county recorder’s office for $2 a page. But there are no stipulations on what a disc loaded with an entire day’s records — sometimes more than 1,000 documents — should cost. To O’Malley, $50 a day sounded about right.

That deal has since blown up into a controversy that involves a lawsuit before the state’s highest court and a newspaper’s apparent role as judge and jury in the case despite a conflict of interest.

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They won a Pulitzer, and now they help citizens with FOI requests…

Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Ang...

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A tiny nugget from the LA Times’ winning coverage of the Bell, California scandal

Jeff Gottlieb, one of the two reporters who exposed corruption in Bell, Calif., tells Al Tompkins that “one of our city desk assistants still answers those calls and helps people with their public records filings.” The Times created a public records section on its website that has a primer on disclosure laws and enables reporters and the public to share public documents…

Needless to say, this makes my heart glow.


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Perhaps the World’s First Protest Against FOI?

Lurie Tower on North Campus at the University ...

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If anyone has pictures of protesters with signs from this rally, which reportedly was held today….I’d love to see ’em.

One University of Michigan faculty member wants to make sure university leaders take great care in responding to the controversial Freedom of Information Act requests filed by theMackinac Center late last month.

Ian Robinson, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, has collected about 1,600 signatures through a petition asking people to “protect academic freedom on campus.”

Robinson said he’s asking U-M officials only to follow the example of University of Wisconsinofficials when they responded to similar requests for emails of professor William Cronon. The university did not provide emails that were related to students, potential students, professorial organizations, personal communications, intellectual communications among scholars and communications related to personnel matters, all of which amounted to a denial of the request.

I continue to maintain that faculty opposed to the same transparency demanded of others is wrongheaded.

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The Bad Exemption Factory Just Keeps on Pumping ‘Em Out

And in news of the truly inane…has anyone considered what happens when the death involves, say, a controversial police shooting???

A bill seeking to exempt depictions of deaths from Florida’s public records laws is making its way through the legislature, and freedom-of-information advocates are warning that the repercussions of such a broad measure could be detrimental to the public’s ability to hold law enforcement and government agents accountable.

“It would be harder for the public to know about these kinds of issues, and much harder, if not impossible for any oversight of law enforcement,” says Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit based in Tallahassee. “And not just law enforcement, quite frankly, because this is any video, or any recording of either the killing of a person or the events leading up to the killing of a person. So for example, in the Tampa Bay area a couple years ago we had the Carlie Brucia case where the security tapes that were critical in that case would have been exempt from public disclosure under this bill.” #

Eleven-year-old Carlie Brucia was abducted and murdered in 2004, and the security tapes from a car wash near her home captured a man leading the young girl to his car shortly before she was reported missing.  With the help of technology provided by NASA to enhance the images, the FBI was eventually able to locate Brucia’s killer and bring him to justice.

State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, says her bill stems from the police dashboard video recording of the murder of two Tampa police officers, and was written to protect victims’ family members.

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Open Government at the Federal Level on the Chopping Block…

Short-sighted slashing in Washington

Government transparency advocates warn that spending cuts in the federal budget passed last week could close the door on President Obama’s ambitious “open government” goals and hamper efforts to open up federal agencies to closer public scrutiny.

The budget deal slashes the Electronic Government Fund from a proposed $35 million to $8 million — not nearly enough to keep certain government Web sites operating at current levels, officials said.

The cuts could spell the end of, a compilation of hundreds of thousands of government data sets; theIT Dashboard, an ambitious project to track how much the federal government spends on information technology investments; and, which tracks federal contract spending and was established by a 2006 law sponsored by Obama when he was a senator.

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