In spring and summer of 2010, courts around the country issued rulings on whether websites must reveal the identities of anonymous commenters in response to subpoenas, adding to the growing jurisprudence on an evolving legal problem. Meanwhile, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling might limit First Amendment protection for anonymous online speech that can be considered "commercial speech."
Recently in Spring 2010 Category
On April 20, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a federal law imposing criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly "creates, sells, or possesses a depiction of animal cruelty . . . for commercial gain," saying it was overly broad and violated the First Amendment right to free speech.
The Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion on Jan. 13, 2010, that blocked the broadcast of a high-profile federal court trial on the constitutionality of California's recently enacted ban on same-sex marriages.
The Supreme Court of the United States struck down portions of a federal campaign finance law in an opinion published Jan. 21, 2010, ruling that the law impermissibly discriminated against the First Amendment rights of corporations to expressly support political candidates for political office.
In a 7-2 decision handed down on Jan. 19, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the jury selection process in most criminal cases must be open to the public under the defendant's Sixth Amendment guarantee of a public trial.
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.
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.
Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson signed a journalist shield bill into law on April 15, 2010, saying that "we must allow journalists to perform their jobs without fear of prosecution and continue bringing the news home to Kansans."