Briefs & Comments

  • October 16, 2017

    RCFP filed an amicus brief in the District of Puerto Rico in support of Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI), an investigative journalism organization. CPI brought suit seeking records and information from the government oversight board created by Congress to manage the territory's finances after Puerto Rico's financial crisis last year. The board moved to dismiss, arguing that the federal statute creating the board supersedes Puerto Rico's public records laws. RCFP's amicus brief argues that the statute does not deprive Puerto Ricans of their rights of access and that the board's motion to dismiss should be denied.

  • October 12, 2017

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a coalition of 20 media organizations submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, supporting unknown plaintiff's petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc. The brief responds to a panel decision that would allow the government to prohibit wire or electronic communication service providers from disclosing information about National Security Letters (NSLs). The brief argues that this nondisclosure requirement is a prior restraint and should be subject to the most exacting scrutiny under the Supreme Court's precedent in the Pentagon Papers case. 

  • October 6, 2017

    A federal district court judge in Manhattan permanently enjoined the release of a fictionalized film by Cleopatra Films about the 1977 plane crash that killed members of the band Lynyrd Synyrd, because one of the co-producers, a former member of the band, was subject to a settlement agreement that limited his ability to profit off of the band's story. Cleopatra filed an expedited appeal with the Second Circuit. RCFP's amicus brief argues that the First Amendment protects films, including fictionalizations like Cleopatra's movie, that the injunction entered by the district court is a prior restraint, which is forbidden in all but the rarest of circumstances, and that even assuming Cleopatra is bound by the settlement agreement and violated it, the proper remedy is an action for damages, not a prior restraint.

  • October 6, 2017

    New York Times reporter Frances Robles moved to quash a subpoena requiring her to testify and provide her interview notes with the suspect in the "Baby Hope" murder case. Robles argues that her testimony and notes are privileged under the New York Shield Law's qualified reporters' privilege for nonconfidential, unpublished information. The trial court denied Robles' motion to quash, the Appellate Division, First Department reversed, and the People appealed to the New York Court of Appeals. The RCFP brief discusses the history of the Shield Law and the importance of the Shield Law's privilege for non-confidential information. It argues that privilege for non-confidential information can be overcome only if the party seeking the information demonstrates that his or her case "virtually rises or falls" based on the information sought.

  • October 3, 2017

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 22 media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of Bloomberg L.P.'s petition for rehearing before the Second Circuit.  Plaintiff Dan Friedman sued Bloomberg for defamation after Bloomberg News published an article about a lawsuit Friedman filed against his former employer, Palladyne International Asset Management B.V.  The article included a quote from Palladyne about the merits of Friedman's lawsuit that Friedman alleges was defamatory.  The district court granted Bloomberg's motion to dismiss, and the Second Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The amicus brief supports Bloomberg's argument that the Second Circuit should rehear the case and affirm the dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds that the allegedly defamatory statement is protected by New York's fair report privilege, New York Civil Rights Law § 74.

  • September 20, 2017

    Appellants Alan Dershowitz and Michael Cernovich sought access to certain sealed judicial records in Giuffre v. Maxwell, a defamation action in the Southern District of New York. The district court entered a standing order in the case permitting the parties to file documents under seal without first seeking judicial approval, resulting in the filing of the majority of the substantive papers in the case under seal, including the papers in support of an opposition to the Defendant's motion for summary judgment. The amicus brief argues, among other things, that the district court's order permitting the sealing is contrary to the First Amendment and common law presumptions of access, and there are no compelling or countervailing interests justifying sealing in this case.

  • September 5, 2017

    The Reporters Committee and 17 media organizations filed an amicus brief in a case over excessive court fees, emphasizing the importance of unfettered access to electronic court records to the press and the public because the news media uses electronic court records to inform the public about matters of public concern. The brief also argues that limiting PACER fees to the cost of dissemination is consistent with First Amendment values, and PACER fees in excess of those permitted by the E-Government Act of 2002 hinders journalists and the public from accessing court records.

  • August 14, 2017

    This case asks the U.S. Supreme Court to answer whether the warrantless seizure and search of historical cellphone records revealing the location and movements of a cellphone user over the course of 127 days is permitted by the Fourth Amendment. RCFP and 19 media organizations joined as amici in support of petitioner, arguing that the Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant to get cellphone location information. The brief explained the historic connection between the First and Fourth Amendments, and argued that long-term tracking of cellphone location information could reveal First Amendment-protected activities and threaten the confidentiality of the newsgathering process. 

  • August 11, 2017

    The Reporters Committee and 25 media organizations filed an amicus brief in the Fourth Circuit in support of a group of plaintiffs challenging North Carolina's "ag gag" statute. N.C. Gen. Stat. 99A-2 creates a civil cause of action by an employer against (1) an employee who enters a nonpublic area of the employer's premises for a reason other than a bona fide intent of seeking or holding employment or doing business and captures or removes information or records images or sounds; (2) any person who places an unattended camera or surveillance device on the employer's premises; or (3) any person who intentionally directs, assists, or induces an individual to violate the act. The Middle District of North Carolina dismissed plaintiffs' case for lack of standing, and plaintiffs appealed.

  • July 17, 2017

    After the Los Angeles Times filed a California Public Records Act ("CPRA") request for a report regarding an officer-involved shooting, the police officers' union filed a reverse-CPRA lawsuit to prevent the release of the report. Despite obtaining the release of almost the entirety of the report, the Times was awarded only a fraction of its attorneys' fees. The newspaper appealed to the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District. RCFP, CNPA, and 14 other media organizations argued that reverse-CPRA lawsuits are contrary to both the language and intent of the CPRA and undermine the CPRA's fundamental purpose to provide public access to government records. However, even assuming that reverse-CPRA actions should be permitted in certain circumstances, requesters must be afforded the same protections in reverse-CPRA actions that they are entitled to in any other action brought under the CPRA.

  • July 7, 2017

    Courthouse News Service (CNS) challenged the policy of the Ventura County state court clerk of delaying disclosure of unlimited civil complaints to the public. CNS argued that it has a constitutional right to timely access the complaints that attaches immediately upon filing. After the lower court held that CNS had a right of timely access to the civil complaints, Planet appealed the decision. The Reporters Committee and 27 other media organizations argued that prompt access to civil complaints benefits the public because timeliness affects newsworthiness, prompt access promotes more accurate reporting, and prompt access promotes public understanding of the matters occupying the courts' dockets.

  • June 13, 2017

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote to the Department of Justice's Inspector General to express our concern about United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) policies and practices that affect journalists at the border. The Office of the Inspector General had earlier announced that it is looking into border inspection procedures.

  • May 16, 2017

    The Reporters Committee wrote a letter on behalf of a coalition of national media organizations objecting to the arrest of reporter Dan Heyman in the West Virginia capitol, for shouting questions to Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway and HHS Secretary Tom Price during a visit.

  • May 6, 2017

    The Reporters Committee and a coalition of news media organizations submitted comments to the Los Angeles Police Commission concerning the development of a policy for releasing body-worn camera (BWC or bodycam) videos of "critical incidents," such as such as when an individual dies in police custody. The comments highlighted the importance of compliance with the California Public Records Act (CPRA), and urged videos of critical incidents to be proactively released to the press and the public.

  • April 17, 2017

    In an appeal to the California Supreme Court, Yelp challenged a decision finding that it had to obey an injunction requiring the removal of content that had been adjudicated as libelous. Yelp had argued that it should not be subject to the order since it did not have an opportunity to defend the posts. On appeal, amici emphasized that the implications of that ruling extend beyond Yelp and that the decisions of the trial court and the Court of Appeal undermine the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. If the Court of Appeal's decision is permitted to stand, Internet platforms that provide space for comment and discussion, like many news media websites, will effectively see their First Amendment interests in their forums curtailed without an opportunity to object, undermining the vitality of such forums as a place for the public to debate issues.