Amicus Briefs, Letters and Statements

NEFAC files and signs onto amicus briefs, letters and statements addressing important First Amendment issues. This is a listing of those documents, as well as others that may be of interest to you. While our main focus is on freedom of information concerns, we will consider supporting any amicus brief that addresses the First Amendment. If you would like to have NEFAC sign onto your brief, or to have us file one on behalf of your cause, please email our executive director for more information. Briefs, letters and statements from previous years can be viewed here: 20172016201520142013 | 2012 | 2011

Courthouse News Service v. Brown (7th Cir. 2018)

Amici write to emphasize the importance of the contemporaneous nature of the public’s First Amendment right of access to newly filed civil complaints. Not only does the Constitution create a right of access to civil complaints that attaches upon the court’s receipt for filing, as Plaintiff-Appellee CNS argues, but there is a substantial public interest in contemporaneous access to newly filed civil complaints.

Memorandum in Support of Unsealing Documents in Estate of Chakalos v. Carman (April 10, 2018)

The courts of New Hampshire have always considered their records to be public, absent some overriding consideration or special circumstance and held that the burden of proving the overriding consideration or special compelling circumstance rests with the party seeking nondisclosure.

To Judge Burroughs Re: Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard (April 6, 2018)

The Coalition’s concern is not whether Harvard’s admission process violates federal civil rights law, but instead that judicial records shedding light on this dispute—which is of exceptional public importance and community interest—remain open to the public. The presumption in favor of access to judicial records sets a high bar before any part of a summary judgment filing may be sealed.

To R.I. House Committee on the Judiciary Re: House Bill 7452 (April 3, 2018)

While an “intent to harm” standard is not included in House Bill 7452, it is included in House Bill 7718, which is supported by Gov. Raimondo and more effectively addresses potential First Amendment conflicts. We strongly encourage your committee to consider the governor’s bill and to support the “intent to harm” standard it wisely includes.

To R.I. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Re: Senate Bill 2450 (March 27, 2018)

During the last two years, we have expressed our concern with legislative attempts to criminalize so-called revenge pornography that also infringe upon the First Amendment rights of Rhode Islanders. Most recently, we joined with the ACLU of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Press Association and the Media Coalition to emphasize the need for an “intent to harm” standard in any legislation considered by your committee. While an “intent to harm” standard is not included in Senate Bill 2450, it is included in Senate Bill 2581, which is supported by Gov. Raimondo and more effectively addresses potential First Amendment conflicts. We strongly encourage your committee to consider the governor’s bill and to support the “intent to harm” standard it wisely includes.

NEFAC Opposes Efforts By N.H. Prosecutors to Obtain Reporter’s Interview Notes (March 23, 2018)

While reporting for Foster’s Daily Democrat – a publication owned by Seacoast Media Group – journalist Brian Early met with Joshua Flynn, an inmate at the Strafford County House of Corrections who is awaiting trial on sexual assault charges. To help possibly strengthen their case against Flynn, state prosecutors filed a motion to compel on Jan. 29 seeking from Early any unpublished information collected during the interview.

To Vt. Sen. Jeanette White Re: House Bill 700 (March 20, 2018)

NEFAC is concerned with House Bill 700, “An Act Relating to the Open Meeting Law and Meeting Minutes.” This legislation is unnecessary and addresses a problem that can already be avoided by state agencies and municipalities. If passed, this bill will weaken the state’s open meeting law and make it more difficult for Vermont residents to obtain timely information about their government.

To U.S. Congress and White House: A Condemnation of Threats to Openness (March 11, 2018)

Those in the highest levels of government have moved far beyond previous efforts to evade transparency, engaging in an unprecedented, systemic endeavor to undermine the basic norms of disclosure, accountability and truthfulness. The Trump Administration has undermined the role of the press, and uses misinformation to thwart the public’s understanding of its actions. Furthermore, the oversight function of Congress has been weakened, if not trivialized, by partisanship. By devaluing openness and accountability, those in power today are diminishing the public trust in government and eroding the foundations of our democracy.

U.S. v. Chin (1st Cir. 2018)

The district court erred by ordering disclosure of information too limited for the public to identify the jurors in a tried-to-verdict criminal case and by delaying public disclosure of any juror information for much longer than necessary — until after sentencing. The court’s order restricting disclosure to names and hometowns provides too little information in many instances to identify a juror because hundreds of people share the same names in large communities within the district. The court should have allowed disclosure of juror names and full addresses immediately after the return of the verdict.

To R.I. Gov. Raimondo Re: The ‘Revenge Porn’ Bills (Jan. 18, 2018)

Our organizations are writing about the so-called revenge porn bills that were introduced last year and that we expect will be reintroduced this session. As you know, in 2017 the Attorney General reintroduced his version of the legislation that you had vetoed in 2016 (S-401), and you submitted your own bill, S-765, which sought to address the serious constitutional defects in the AG’s bill.

Comments Re: R.I. Dept. of Safety Regulations on APRA Proposal (Jan. 18, 2018)

This testimony is submitted on behalf of ACCESS/Rhode Island, a coalition of non-profit organizations and First Amendment advocates such as the New England First Amendment Coalition, all dedicated to ensuring government at all levels is accessible to the public.