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TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: This just in... lawyers have to obey the law

(01/08/13 10:09pm)

Like it or not, attorneys who work on contract for government agencies -- and, it turns out, even those whose payment flows through government agencies' insurance companies -- must let the public know what they're charging for. That's the bottom line of a new ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court that comes just a few months after courts in California and Ohio reached the same conclusion.


To fix FERPA, raise the price of lying

(01/20/13 1:14pm)

Put yourself in the place of a school or college attorney. Your client, the institution, is trying to decide whether to fulfill or reject a journalist's request for public records. Honoring the request is going to be a nuisance, and the records contain some embarrassing information the school would rather not see on the evening news. The records pretty clearly don't contain any confidential student information -- but the journalist can't easily prove that.


Hawaii risks turning one of America's best reporter's privilege laws into one of the worst

(04/05/13 12:57pm)

Urged on by the state attorney general, a Hawaii Senate committee is proposing to drastically narrow the state's 2008 reporter shield statute, putting the ability of student journalists to protect confidential sources at risk. In amendments approved Wednesday, a Senate committee pared back the scope of the reporter's privilege so that it would benefit only journalists "professionally associated" with traditional news organizations. The current Hawaii statute enables two classes of people to protect their unpublished material and the identity of their sources if confronted with a demand in connection with a legal proceeding: (1) "[A] journalist or newscaster presently or previously employed by or otherwise professionally associated with any newspaper or magazine or any digital versiona thereof." (2) A person who can demonstrate by "clear and convincing evidence" that he or she "has regularly and materially participated in the reporting or publishing of news or information of substantial public interest for the purpose of dissemination to the general public" or that he or she occupies a position "materially similar or identical to that of a journalist or newscaster." It's that second class of protected people that Attorney General David M.


The forecast for public access to teacher performance data under Florida's Sunshine Law: Mostly cloudy

(04/11/13 8:10am)

After a Florida court declared that reports about teacher performance must be kept confidential for a year after they are created, a state legislator is proposing to keep the information off-limits for even longer. A bill filed Monday by state Rep.


Newseum panel debates federal reporter's shield law

(09/18/13 4:38pm)

Reporters and media lawyers seemed optimistic about the proposed legislation that would establish a media shield law during a panel at the Newseum in Washington on Wednesday. "I've got a better feeling now than I've ever had,” said Kevin Goldberg, legal counsel to the American Society of News Editors, even though the bill still faces major obstacles in Congress. New York Times correspondent Charlie Savage was less optimistic, saying he was skeptical any form of the bill would pass. The bill, known as the 2013 Free Flow of Information Act, passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.



Does legalized censorship make students less likely to criticize school administrators? One study suggests "yes."

(02/09/14 5:28pm)

Student newspapers in states with legal protection against censorship publish many more editorials than those in states lacking protective laws, and their editorials are more likely to be critical of school policies. That's the takeaway from a recently published study in the Maine Law Review by an attorney and former Iowa school-board member who concludes that "a free student press has far-reaching positive consequences that reverberate through the public schools and beyond." Author Tyler Buller's article is the most comprehensive nationwide look at whether state laws counteracting the Supreme Court's 1988 ruling in Hazelwood School District v.


Supreme Court declines to hear First Amendment challenge over school’s American flag clothing ban

(03/30/15 1:27pm)

A petition to the nation’s highest court followed a February 2014 ruling from three judges on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in California, who found Live Oak High School officials did not violate the First Amendment when they ordered students to remove American flag T-shirts during a Cinco de Mayo celebration in 2010.


Snap away: Pennsylvania becomes the seventh state to recognize a right to take smartphone photos of public records

(08/21/15 6:10pm)

A police department in Reserve, Pa., tried to stop a public-records requester from making his own duplicates of government expense-account documents. But the state open-records commission, adding Pennsylvania to a growing list of states, says there's a legal right to take pictures of government documents.