Must read FOI stories – 6/20/14
- If you read only one FOI story, it should be this one: The Secret to Getting Top-Secret Secrets: How a journalist with a dark past learned to pry info from the government—and redeemed himself in the process.
- After transparency bill is “gutted,” the University of Delaware and Delaware State University can rest easy knowing their public record exemptions will remain intact. Thoughts from Adam Goldstein, Student Press Law Center attorney advocate: ‘It does a Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the law.’
- The Associated Press reports that the White House has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about the Stingray surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods. Let’s not forget that in recent weeks the Chicago Police is being sued for failing to provide Stingray records, and U.S. Marshals raided a local Florida police department to prevent the release of those same type of records. (Anyone seeing a trend? Or is it just me?)
- In the above link about the document seizure by the U.S. Marshals, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency motion to try and claw back those records, but the judge dismissed it.
- FOIA request reveals brutal photos of seals, dolphins, whales, and other sea life that were caught in California commercial fishing boats that use drift gillnets — one mile-long mesh nets that are intended to catch swordfish.
- Documents obtained via FOIA request show that St. Clair County in Illinois spent more than $3.3 million in settlements behind close doors. A huge range of settlements from $900,000 to a teenager who was allegedly sexually abused at the county’s Juvenile Detention Center to $1,000 to a person claiming injuries when placed under arrest by sheriff’s deputies.
- What have we lost since 9/11? A lot of the First Amendment, including the good ol’ days of the Freedom of Information Act.
- The Kentucky Court of Appeals has affirmed a Circuit Court decision paving the way for public access to court records related to a public official’s job performance and the contentious relationship she had with the former president of a local community college.
- An appeals court backs a man who made an anonymous public records request. The court ruled that the city of Greenacres, Fla., could not require the man to fill out a form before obtaining the documents.
- Ex-offenders in Forest Park, IL — who qualify to work with volunteer attorneys — filed petitions to seal their criminal records, which would remove them from public access (but at least the information can still be seen by government bodies and police departments /sarcasm).
- Reporter wonders why the Department of Education is “being so opaque” on student loan data, after filing multiple FOIA requests with “less than optimal” results.
- St. Louis police records released per a judge’s order in public records lawsuit show how vice and other drug officers scalped the scalpers. Fifteen police officers were either suspended and demoted or otherwise disciplined for giving St. Louis Cardinals’ championship tickets seized from scalpers to friends and family.
- This FOIA lawsuit could open up IRS data on nonprofits, making it more accessible.
- FOIA lawsuit win: Judge rules against a Washington state police department for wrongfully invoking the law enforcement exemption when it withheld records last year.
- The Miami Herald questions the Department of Children & Families’ “paperless” investigation into why there were originally no records — “no reports, memos, notes, emails or smoke signals” — of the deaths of at least 30 children who were in DCF’s active case files.
- New Oklahoma law removes an Open Records Act loophole for state troopers. Since 2005, the Highway Patrol was exempt from dash cam requirement to make audio and video recordings available to the public.
- The Federal Bureau of Prisons is being sued for FOIA violations by Prisology, a non-profit criminal justice reform organization. They claim that the FBOP has been non-compliant with the law, which has required for decades the Bureau post online substantial information about its day-to-day decision-making.
- A call to improve Arkansas public records laws: “Arkansas’s FOIA is not a bad FOIA. That doesn’t mean it is not in need of improvement.”
- Open records law rewrite would expand disclosure rules on Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln universities. Currently, they enjoy a broad exemption, which allows them to deny most public records requests.
David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ, reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick