Recently in FOIA and Access Category

Transparency Advocates Protest SEC's New FOIA Exemption

A provision in the financial regulatory reform act drew criticism over the charge that it unnecessarily exempts Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) information and records from federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The expulsion of four reporters from the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, along with two court rulings related to detainees and the hearings being conducted there--all of which occurred in the summer of 2010--highlighted the strained relationship between the Pentagon and U.S. media over coverage of the controversial base.

As efforts continued in the Gulf of Mexico to stanch the worst oil spill in U.S. history, news organizations accused British Petroleum (BP) of denying access to news agencies attempting to document the disaster.

As he entered into his second full year in office, President Barack Obama continued to introduce new measures he said were intended to increase government transparency. But some critics maintain the administration's changes do not do enough to stem entrenched practices of federal government secrecy.

The Ohio Supreme Court struck down a gag order on April 13, 2010, that had been imposed by an Ohio state trial court judge. In State ex rel. Toledo Blade Co. v. Henry County Court of Common Pleas, No. 2010-01, 2010 Ohio LEXIS 865 (Ohio April 13, 2010), the court ruled that the judge's attempt to keep news media from reporting on a criminal trial was "patently unconstitutional," and struck down the gag order by applying U.S. Supreme Court precedent and rejecting the trial court's argument that advances in media technology had rendered the precedent obsolete.

A Federal District Court judge in Florida denied a freelance journalist's request for the mug shots of a man who had pleaded guilty to securities fraud after the judge determined that the guilty man's privacy interests outweighed the public interest in the photos' release in a Dec. 14, 2009 decision.

State Supreme Courts across the country sided with news organizations, a labor union and a private citizen in recent decisions that clarified state open records and meetings laws, and mandated disclosure of salary figures and a court settlement.

KSTP Gains Access to Absentee Ballots

In a ruling issued Jan. 5, 2010, a Minnesota state district court judge granted a Twin Cities ABC affiliate the right to see and copy rejected and unopened absentee ballots from the 2008 election, calling the ballots "public data" for the purposes of Minnesota open records law. As the Bulletin went to press, the decision was pending further review by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Recent rulings by state courts in Kansas, Nevada, and Massachusetts recognized the rights of the accused as well as the rights of the public by allowing varying degrees of access to trial court jury proceedings.

Courts across the country curtailed public access to judicial records and court proceedings in the fall of 2009, as state and federal judges used a variety of statutory, constitutional, and administrative methods to limit openness.

A Florida judge awarded $750,000 in legal fees on Sept. 25, 2009, to the attorneys of an open-government advocacy group that sued several city officials in Venice, Fla., for violating the state's open government laws.

The New York Times does not have a First Amendment right of access to sealed wiretap applications filed in the investigation of the prostitution ring that led to former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on Aug. 6, 2009.

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