Most back more spending for veterans, education, infrastructure. “As Congress faces an April 28 deadline to fund government operations, the public is now split in their general preferences on the size and scope of government: 48% say they would rather have a bigger government providing more services, while 45% prefer a smaller government providing fewer services. This marks the first time in eight years that as many Americans have expressed a preference for a bigger as a smaller government. Support for bigger government has increased 7 percentage points since last September, when more said they preferred a smaller government offering fewer services (50%) than a bigger government providing more services (41%). The last time the public was divided on this question was in October 2008, just prior to the election of Barack Obama.”
Report – From 1991 to 2010, the middle class expands in France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, but, as in the United States, shrinks in Germany, Italy and Spain
“…The divergent trajectories are linked to differences in how the incomes of households overall in these countries have evolved. France, the Netherlands and the UK experienced notable growth in disposable (after-tax) household income from 1991 to 2010. Meanwhile, incomes were either stagnant or falling in Germany, Italy and Spain. Among the 11 Western European countries examined in this report, Ireland experienced the most rapid growth in income from 1991 to 2010 and the biggest expansion of the middle class. Several other countries in Western Europe also experienced large gains in household income. However, rising incomes did not translate into expanding middle classes in these countries. This group of countries includes Denmark, Luxembourg and Norway.”
FindLaw via Reuters – “Like many federal judges before him, United States District Judge William H. Orrick of California’s Northern District has enjoined the federal government from enforcing one of President Donald Trump’s executive orders. Trump’s Executive Order 13768, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” has suffered the same fate as his travel ban, both the original and the revised version.
Justia – County of Santa Clara v. Donald J. Trump et al – “The County of Santa Clara filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against President Donald J. Trump, challenging the constitutionality of his executive order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” which seeks to deny federal funds to so-called sanctuary jurisdictions.”
“Wikitribune is a news platform that brings journalists and a community of volunteers together. We want to make sure that you read fact-based articles that have a real impact in both local and global events. And that stories can be easily verified and improved. Why? The news is broken and we can fix it. The news is broken and we can fix it. We’re bringing genuine community control to our news with unrestricted access for all. We’re developing a living, breathing tool that’ll present accurate information with real evidence, so that you can confidently make up your own mind. Facts can be presented with bias, taken out of context and most recently a lot of facts are just plain…made-up. Supporting Wikitribune means ensuring that that journalists only write articles based on facts that they can verify. Oh, and that you can see their sources. That way you can make up your own mind…”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Rockwood is proud to announce the 2017 cohort of the Rockwood JustFilms Fellowship!
This fellowship brings together 12 leaders working at the intersection of storytelling, film, and social change to learn powerful skills that will shift their capacity for leadership and collaboration. This cohort represents a wide range of established leaders in the film and digital storytelling sectors including: organizational leaders, media impact producers, filmmakers, thought leaders, curators, archivists, and critics. Through two residential retreats, peer coaching sessions, and additional leadership support, they will develop stronger working partnerships with each other, and with leaders of other social movements.
Join us in congratulating our 2017 fellows:
Kimberly Bautista | Filmmaker & Project Lead, Justice for my Sister Collective
Kimberly is a Colombian-American writer, director, and producer based in Los Angeles. Her award-winning documentary film Justice for My Sister about femicide in Guatemala broadcast on PBS Stations and TeleSUR. She founded the arts nonprofit Justice for My Sister Collective, to train young women of color in film production with an intersectional feminist lens, and to tell stories that advocate for healthy relationships and promote gender equality. Kimberly is a consultant for Firelight Media’s emerging filmmakers of color. She is a founding member of Cinemáticas in Los Angeles, a self-curated peer mentoring group of mid-career and established filmmakers. Kimberly directs music videos for feminist hip hop artists. She is currently writing and directing a short-form comedic series for The SweetSpot, about a group of diverse friends who contend with modern-day adulthood and an unconventional love triangle.
Lyric Cabral | Journalist/Filmmaker, Stories Seldom Seen Films
Lyric has over a decade of experience documenting the intersections of race and surveillance in the post 9-11 world. Lyric directs/ produces investigative work from an insider, character-driven perspective that seeks to expose vital information for the public record. Cabral’s debut film (T)ERROR, the first film to portray an active FBI counterterrorism sting operation, won the 2015 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Breakout First Feature, the 2015 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary. Lyric’s verité work has appeared on PBS’s Independent Lens, BBC 4’s Storyville, Viceland, Pivot, Netflix, and National Geographic Channel UK. Currently Lyric is directing The Roshamon Effect, an immersive exploration of the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael O.D. Brown.
Leo is a documentarian based in San Francisco and Taipei. He is drawn to character-driven stories from communities on the outside, especially immigrant and LGBTQ stories. He was nominated for a News & Documentary Emmy Award with A Village Called Versailles (2010). His other films as a director include Out Run (2016), Mr. Cao Goes to Washington (2012), and To You Sweetheart Aloha (2005). Leo was recently a Sundance Institute fellow, and an artist-in-residence at Northwestern University. He is currently the co-chair of New Day Films, the social-issue documentary distribution co-op; a consulting producer and trainer for CNEX, the Chinese documentary foundation and pitching forum; and the co-founder of the newly formed Asian American Documentary Network. Leo received his MFA in film production from University of Southern California. He has taught documentary production at University of California in Santa Cruz and Berkeley, and the Communication University of China.
Luisa Dantas | Independent Filmmaker, JoLu Productions
A Brasilian-American filmmaker, Luisa works at the intersection of storytelling, social justice, and cities. She produced and directed the multi-platform documentary Land of Opportunity, which chronicles the reconstruction of New Orleans through the eyes of those on the frontlines and asks the question: what kinds of cities do we want to (re)build in the 21st century? The project includes a feature film and groundbreaking interactive web platform produced in conjunction with partners in six cities. Luisa co-produced the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Her first fiction film, Bolo, was produced in Brasil. She has written for the animated series Go, Diego, Go! for Nickelodeon Television. Luisa is currently working as a consultant with the Ford Foundation to develop a narrative-shift strategy to support equitable urban development. Her work has received funding from Chicken and Egg, Rockefeller, and Ford. She is also a member-owner of New Day Films.
Loira Limbal | Vice President & Documentary Lab Director, Firelight Media
Loira is a Dominican-American filmmaker interested in documenting the lives and stories of working class women of color. She is currently the Vice President and Documentary Lab Director at Firelight Media. Best known for producing high-quality documentaries for PBS, Firelight is committed to making films about pivotal movements and people in American history. Firelight’s flagship program is the Documentary Lab, a fellowship that provides mentorship, funding, and access to emerging filmmakers of color. For over 15 years, Loira has worked in the nonprofit sector with a focus on cultural production, access, and representation. She has worked at various community-based organizations in New York City including the Point Community Development Corporation, the Dominican Women’s Development Center, and Sista II Sista. In 2006, she founded The Reel X Project, a social justice and creative filmmaking space for young women of color in the Bronx. Loira received a BA in History from Brown University, and is a graduate of the Third World Newsreel’s Film and Video Production Training Program.
Elissa Moorhead | Partner, TNEG
Producer, curator, and author Elissa has developed public art, exhibitions, and film programs for the last 25 years. She is currently a principal partner and producer at TNEG film studios, which creates experimental films, documentaries, and time based-installations. She co-founded Red Clay Arts in NYC, where she curated/produced over 20 exhibitions and multimedia projects in NYC and beyond, including; Random Occurrences, a multi- venue exhibition; Cat Calls, a street harassment project, at St. Ann’s Warehouse and the NYC Museum; Practicum, the inaugural experimental series at BRIC; FunkGodJazzMedicine, the multisite project in partnership with Creative Time; Art in Odd Places, an outdoor performance and visual art installation; and Flux Atlanta, an installation of video, visual, and performance work. She is currently serving as curatorial advisor for The Contemporary, and as a Public Art Commissioner in Baltimore City. She is the author of P is for Pussy, an illustrated “children’s” book.
Molly Murphy | Co-Director, Working Films
Molly co-directs Working Films, a nonprofit organization that uses documentaries to advance social justice and environmental protection. In her 17-year tenure, she has planned and directed national engagement campaigns, facilitated partnerships, and coordinated coalitions centered on the use of nonfiction media to enhance communication, reach beyond the choir, and make an impact. Molly designs and leads trainings for filmmakers, grassroots organizations, and NGOs focused on using visual storytelling to effect change. She directs Working Films’ issue organizing campaigns in states throughout the US to advance clean energy solutions, racial and economic justice, and civil rights.
Michael Premo | Executive Producer, Storyline
Michael is an artist, journalist, and filmmaker. He’s Co-Founder and Executive Producer of Storyline, a production company building power with story and strategy. Storyline makes documentaries, and consults with artists, filmmakers, and non-art organizations on community engagement strategies using creative content. Michael has devoted his life to the evolution of consciousness, culture, and systems of relating to one another and the Earth. Recent projects include the multi-platform project 28th Amendment: Housing is a Human Right, the participatory documentary Sandy Storyline, the short film and exhibit Water Warriors, and Veterans Coming Home, a multi-platform public media series for PBS. He has produced theater, photography, and documentaries independently and with numerous companies, including Hip-Hop Theater Festival, the Peabody Award winning StoryCorps and the New York Times. As an organizer, he has worked on local and international campaigns. He is an affiliate with the Interaction Institute for Social Change, and is on the board of trustees of A Blade of Grass.
Hannah Rosenzweig | Filmmaker & Producer, Intention Media Inc.
Hannah Rosenzweig is a filmmaker, producer, activist, and communications consultant. As a communications team member and organizer for the Women’s March on Washington, she created media to generate momentum for the march. For over 10 years, Hannah has produced digital videos and ads for democratic campaigns, including Hillary for America in 2016. She also makes independent documentary films, including Puppet, which premiered at the DOC NYC Festival. Hannah has a background in public health, and regularly works as a consultant to the NYC Department of Health and other health and social justice organizations. She holds a masters degree in public health from Columbia University, and a BA in History from Oberlin College. Currently she teaches Digital Media & Health to a group of passionate college students in New York City.
Andy Smith | CEO, Columbia Film Society
Driven by the idea that investing in culture in challenging environments can affect social change Andy’s career has focused on his hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. He is currently the CEO of the Columbia Film Society, overseeing the organization’s two entities: the Nickelodeon Theatre (South Carolina’s only nonprofit arthouse cinema), and Indie Grits Labs. In 2007, Andy founded the Indie Grits Festival, an annual showcase of cutting-edge southern film and culture that has since evolved into a year-round entity providing support to southern artists and filmmakers in addition to media education opportunities for local students. A graduate of Swarthmore College and UCLA, Andy currently serves on the boards of the Art House Convergence and the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center. In his free time, he works as an assistant to his wife, theater artist Kimi Maeda.
Nicole van Schaik | Deputy Director, BRITDOC Foundation
Nicole is Deputy Director at BRITDOC Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2005 that’s committed to enabling great documentary films and connecting them to audiences globally. Based in London and New York, BRITDOC works with independent filmmakers, impact producers, and partners all over the world. Nicole strategizes with filmmakers and impact producers on how they can use their films as a strategic tool for social or environmental change. She also brokers new and exciting partnerships with organizations from across civil society, including: foundations, philanthropists, NGOs, brands, policymakers, activists, technology innovators, and media for the global Good Pitch program, and BRITDOC as a whole. Before joining the foundation, Nicole worked as a television journalist for broadcasters, including RTL News and Al Jazeera. She finished her MA in International Journalism in Cardiff in 2008, and has previously lived in The Netherlands, USA, South Africa, and Wales.
Yvonne Welbon | Senior Creative Consultant and Producer, Chicken & Egg Pictures
Yvonne is Senior Creative Consultant at Chicken & Egg Pictures, and the founder of the Chicago-based nonprofit Sisters in Cinema. She is an award-winning independent filmmaker, educator, and media consultant, and has successfully produced and distributed over 20 films that have screened on PBS, Starz/Encore, TV-ONE, IFC, Bravo, the Sundance Channel, BET, HBO, and in over one hundred film festivals around the world. Titles include: Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100; Yoruba Richen’s The New Black (exploring the intersection of faith, racial justice, and LGBT rights); and the multimedia project Sisters in Cinema, a documentary, website, and book-in-progress on the history of black women filmmakers. Yvonne received a BA from Vassar College, completed an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and has a PhD from Northwestern University. She is also a graduate of the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women.
Photo credit: Alyssa Doom -->(Photo credit: Jami Dwyer / Wikimedia Commons.)
Last week marked the two-year anniversary of the official launch of the What Works Cities Initiative, which makes this a useful moment to reflect on Sunlight’s progress supporting cities in the What Works network in the context of our broader theory of change.
Sunlight’s Open Cities Team believe strongly that cities must leverage data-and-evidence to become not only more efficient, but more transparent, accountable, and participatory — in short, more open — as well.
Many city officials agree, and, propelled by this conviction, our team is working hard to help city halls that want to become both data-driven and data-democratized.
In this post we’ll check in on this work by exploring our progress supporting three critical steps needed for cities to realize the full benefits of data-driven governance in a 21st century democracy:
- First, cities need to build the infrastructure for data transparency.
- Second, cities need to design this infrastructure to be responsive to public feedback and ultimately accountable to the public interest.
- Third, cities need to encourage community participation by facilitating the reuse of public data to drive positive community impact.
Taken together, these steps are key to moving the conversation beyond the data-driven city hall and toward a vision for the open, data-driven city.Building the infrastructure for data transparency
Sunlight’s primary role on the What Works Cities effort to date has been supporting city halls as they develop public policy frameworks to ensure the proactive release of government information online (“open data policies” for short).
We believe these data-democratizing reforms constitute critical infrastructure for cities that strive to be data-driven, and our progress in helping cities build this infrastructure has been substantial.
When What Works Cities first launched in April of 2015, fewer than 30 American cities with population between 100,000 and 1 million people—only about 10% of the municipalities that our initiative defines as “mid-sized cities”—had at least one open data policy on the books.
Since that time, Sunlight has provided support to over 50 city halls seeking to develop new open data policies, and as a result the number of mid-sized cities with a policy on the books has nearly doubled.Scaling democratic norms for the 21st century
The scale of this success is critical to fostering open data as a democratic norm in US cities. Public policy is how we enshrine our democratic values as a society and as open data policy spreads to more and more communities, we are are seeing that democratic value spread as well.
City leaders and the publics they serve are increasingly viewing open data as critical democratic infrastructure for the 21st century: Instead of skeptically questioning “why should we have an open data policy?” more and more city leaders are instead asking “why don’t we have an open data policy already?”Advancing the field
The progress of our efforts in building the infrastructure of data transparency in What Works Cities should not simply be measured by the quantity of reforms passed, however, but also by the quality of these reforms—by how thoughtful and innovative policy ideas are advancing the field of open data.
We are thrilled to have provided technical assistance in the development of bold new policies that have pushed boundaries and driven the open data movement forward. Of the ten cities that have committed to the highest number of Sunlight’s open data best practices in official policy, our Open Cities Team supported seven in the development of those policies via the What Works Cities program.
Individual cities have stood out in specific ways:
- In Seattle, the city’s commitment to best practices in its open data policies was complemented by a thoughtful and careful approach to navigating its residents’ expressed privacy concerns. The result is more comprehensive than we’ve seen codified elsewhere and serves as an example to cities around the country.
- In San Jose, the self-proclaimed “Capital of Silicon Valley” was eager to put out a policy with big ambitions. The comprehensive approach of City Council Open Data Policy 0-43 and the accompanying administrative implementation manual did so by connecting open data to San Jose’s smart city vision; finally
- Cities like Naperville, Illinois have shown that you don’t need to be big to make big commitments to an infrastructure of data transparency. Naperville City Council’s “Open Data Policy” Resolution tops the charts among all municipal open data policies for the most number of Sunlight’s best practices contained.
Policies like the above and many others have collectively raised the bar for what a high-quality municipal infrastructure for data transparency looks like in US cities and in cities globally.Continuing the work with Sunlight’s policy help desk
Key to our success in scaling and advancing the municipal public policy infrastructure of data transparency has been Sunlight’s democratization of the reform process itself. We’ve put together the most comprehensive suite of city open data policy resources available anywhere, and it’s available online for anyone to use. As a result, any city official, community advocate, or member of the public with an Internet connection and a desire for a more transparent, accountable, and participatory city is now equipped to develop great open data policy.
Specifically, we’ve taken key steps like those below:
- We have opened up open data policy itself (which, ironically, is too often left locked up in PDFs) by making those policies searchable and downloadable on opendatapolicies.org
- We have lowered barriers in the drafting process with resources like our open data firestarter and policy wizard
- We’ve created world-class, easy-to-understand guidance with our Public Policy for Public Data checklist
These online tools, combined with Sunlight’s support, constitute what we’re calling our policy help desk, available to anyone looking for help advancing urban open government reforms.
By scaling and democratizing the field of open data policy with our help desk and continued direct technical assistance, we will keep helping cities build and maintain the infrastructure for municipal data transparency in 2017 and beyond.Holding transparency accountable
In order for data-driven cities to succeed, it is critical that the new civic infrastructure for transparency that these cities’ open data policies and portals represent is democratically designed in ways that are fundamentally reflective of the public interests that public data is meant to serve. Realizing this imperative, city halls are increasingly seeking to improve public access to information by making transparency initiatives themselves more responsive and accountable. Sunlight’s Open Cities Team is helping to make this happen by ramping up our support for collaborative policy development processes that are driven by online and in-person community feedback.How ‘crowdlaw’ can bring the public into public policy
There are many reasons city open data programs are increasingly interested in utilizing “crowdlaw,” which we define as a collaborative approach to policy development driven by online public input—for open data policy.
Crowdlaw processes result in better, more informed public policy for data transparency and can also play a key role in fostering the ongoing partnerships and participation needed for open data programs to hold themselves accountable.
For these reasons we believe that crowdlaw and open data policy make a perfect match, and if the demand for open data crowdlaw support in the first two years of What Works Cities is any indication, city governments agree.
To meet city hall demand, we’ve further developed our toolkit and expertise in this area in several ways:
- We’ve begun tracking all instances of open data crowdlaw to understand this growing trend and share best practices with city halls.
- We’ve helped connect cities to the tools they need for their goals, including resources on getting started with Madison, collaborative policy making with Google Docs, and using GitHub for public policy collaboration.
- We’ve made “draft policy in the open” a standard recommendation for local governments as part of our Public Policy for Public Data checklist.
In What Works Cities like Buffalo, New York, Sunlight’s resources and support have already proven valuable for building a municipal infrastructure of data transparency that is itself accountable and responsive. With our help, the city leveraged the expertise of its community to not only build a better policy but in the process forge new partnerships. Opening up the drafting process connected the city to groups like Open Buffalo and university researchers like Monica Stevens, a professor of geography at CUNY, that will contribute to the ongoing success and sustainability of Buffalo’s infrastructure for data transparency.
Including Buffalo, we’ve supported seven local jurisdictions since 2016. Sunlight has made open data crowdlaw a core part of our technical assistance offerings to support even more cities’ open data programs with better policy made accountable through community feedback and partnerships.Accountable crowdlaw is better law
This commitment to accountability is not just idealistic. It’s outcome-oriented too. Our preliminary research suggests that crowdlaw practices that hold open data programs accountable to public feedback may be correlated with stronger policy, as measured by the number of open data best practices contained. On average, we see about three additional best practices in the public policy produced through crowdlaw processes when compared to the average jurisdiction with an open data policy.
Likewise, open data programs in concert online public feedback show signs of better open data performance, as measured by a given jurisdiction’s score on the US City Open Data Census. On average, cities score about 600 points higher than the average score.
While these are rough and imperfect measures, they support the conclusion that designing open data programs around processes that include public accountability and feedback is not only good for optics, but good for the bottom line as well.Fostering participation
As I’ve outlined, Sunlight has made significant progress in supporting the development and advancement of municipal open data policy at scale. We are now expanding our support to help cities design these policies collaboratively, in ways driven by public feedback.
Together, these efforts further a municipal infrastructure for data transparency that is publicly accountable. Sunlight believes every city in the 21st-century should view public participation as a prerequisite for the sustainable, democratic proliferation of data-driven governance programs.
But for the open data movement to live up to its promise in cities — for it to permeate from city hall and into the fabric of the community — building an accountable infrastructure for data transparency must be accompanied not just by programs that use data internally, but also by the use of that infrastructure of transparency by those outside city hall. To realize the value of their investments in open data, city halls must actively facilitate public participation by fostering the reuse of city data to drive community impact.
We believe this much is imperative for the future of the city open data movement. Cities must actively identify opportunities for community reuse of public data and then proceed to facilitate that reuse. This is why we are developing and piloting a new support model for What Works Cities we are calling Tactical Data Engagement to help cities realize this vision for the future.Piloting participatory open data in Glendale
In Glendale, Arizona, we are working with city hall to re-imagine how that city government might share information in ways best-suited to support the needs of existing community actors who are already working to improve the community, but could do so more effectively with public data.
This has meant working with the City of Glendale to evaluate expressed demand for city information by analyzing public records requests. In doing so, we’re employing a strategy of FOIA-as-open data-demand-sensor that we’ve often advocated for over the years at Sunlight.
Embracing our Tactical Data Engagement approach means more than simply using public records request data to inform the prioritization of open data release. It means starting a dialogue with the human beings who frequently request information to learn more about how and why they are using public records — and how open data might facilitate that use. With this in mind, this spring we will be working with the city to design and conduct interviews with frequent public records requesters. We will then help the city use those interviews to drive plans for how information is ultimately shared proactively online.
One promising use-case has already emerged from Glendale: requests for building permit data could help inform investment in neighborhoods by local real-estate developers. That’s something the local government and neighborhoods themselves would like to encourage in many cases. Talking to the real estate community about their information needs will help further explore and define opportunities to support such neighborhood investment with proactively released open data.
Building on our continued work of scaling an accountable municipal infrastructure for data transparency, we’ll be piloting our tactical data engagement approach in more cities in the months ahead. We will be leveraging community participation to put the new infrastructure of transparency to productive use.City-making is participatory. City open data should be, too.
Over the past two years, Sunlight has made significant headway in helping cities build the public policy infrastructure for data transparency.
We’ve supported cities in designing this infrastructure to be responsive to public feedback and ultimately accountable to the public interest. We will expand this support in 2017 and beyond.
Now, we’re just getting started helping cities encourage community participation in new transparency measures by actively facilitating the reuse of public data by their communities. There is no greater need for realizing the future of open data-driven cities.
Cities are participatory endeavors.
City-making is a continuous process undertaken not just by a city hall, but by a collective urban ecosystem, comprised of many organizations and individuals.
We have a powerful vision for a data-driven city. If we are to achieve this vision, the use of data and evidence by city halls alone is not enough.
For city-making to be truly data-driven, the multitude of people and institutions who play a role in the process need to apply evidence to drive change.
As the stewards of vast amounts of relevant urban data collected for the public’s benefit, city halls have a crucial role to play in ushering in this future. We know this.
It’s why we care about supporting public officials directly in developing policy and practice, but open data in a vacuum doesn’t get us to the data-democratized future we need.
Building an infrastructure for data transparency is a critical foundation, but it alone is not the answer. Ecosystems of community members addressing urban challenges have been around much longer than the open data movement has. Cities need to meet these people and organizations where they are to learn about how and why data might be reused outside of city hall and to facilitate participation to foster that reuse with impact.
This will be a tall order for cities, but Sunlight is looking forward to helping.
The transcript in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County is here; the transcript in BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell is here.
In many states in the Union, the only watchdogs are volunteers who monitor bills as side projects and the editors of the local newspapers whose continued operations are under an existential threat.
“About 70 percent of our affiliates said that tracking their state legislature is a mission-critical role for them to play,” said Daniel Bevarly, the executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC), in an interview. “The fight for freedom of information is at the state and local levels. A lot of [blocking of public information] starts with a bad bill.”
Changes to public records access, exemptions or policies can be “buried in other legislation, like a farm package, and on page 700, there’s this thing about increasing exemptions,” he explained.
That means FOI watchdogs must comb through every page of every filed bill.
“Florida and Maine require that when a bill is filed that affects freedom of information laws, it has to be pointed out at the onset,” said Bevarly, but “in many states it’s very, very challenging to track because of the way these get filed.
Sunlight’s OpenStates project, which has been spun out into an independent project, enables the public to search for and identify bills of concern for free. Services like FastCase provide paid legal research services.
Newspapers and state press associations also track legislation — or hire lobbyists to do so — but the the local newspaper industry has a money problem that will have an impact on their capacity to do accountability journalism — or exist.
Bevarly, whose groups connects open government advocates across 44 states, said there aren’t many other groups warding off potential legislative threats before they become law. He sees this work as under-appreciated, even by other, issue-oriented watchdog organizations that are dependent on open records laws to access information related to their causes.
A constant battle for the NFOIC is to keep information that officials wish to classify as private based on security concerns available to the public.
Take, for example, datasets about the age or structural integrity of tunnels and bridges.
“That’s the kind of data that’s very much in the public interest,” said Bevarly, “but agencies often deny that type of information because they consider that a security risk.”
The NFOIC also watches for bills that discourage access to public documents by increasing fees.
In Florida, one measure would change the awarding of attorneys’ fees for plantiffs who sue public agencies for withholding records. Currently, the law states that courts “shall assess and award” reasonable fees. The new bill would give judges discretion, thus making it financially riskier for attorneys to take such cases.
“It’s a really critical, fundamental change,” said Bevarly.
Looking at legislative trends around the country, Bevarly said that many bills introduced in recent years “are more political than practical.”
He’s seen a number of attempts to exempt names of law enforcement officers from court files, police reports, or disciplinary proceedings. Such efforts in New Jersey and Virginia failed last year, but one in West Virginia passed.
Politicians say it’s for security, though there’s no evidence, Bevarly observed. Such exemptions could have shielded many officers involved in police-brutality cases that riveted the country over the past few years. A hot issue for NFOIC is a spate of bills that seek to exempt footage from police body cameras.
A new frontier will likely have to do with social media, including cases of public agencies using third-party software, Bevarly predicts.
“If they’re not generating the data, well who is managing that data?”
Could the agencies access the data for release when required? What about the Twitter accounts of government contractors who are bound by freedom of information laws? How about public comments collected on Facebook?
“A lot comes down to the digital transformation that’s coming down,” said Bevarly. “It’s tough for public agencies to catch up – if they ever will.”Where the Sunshine State is a national leader
Unless you’re talking about weird crimes or alligator attacks, it’s unusual to hear Florida described as the best at anything. When it comes to sunshine, that would be a mistake.
“We have probably the most progressive public records law and open meetings law in the country,” said Barbara Petersen, a Tallahassee-based attorney who runs the First Amendment Foundation, in an interview.
Florida’s sunshine laws dictate that “all state, county, and municipal records are open for personal inspection and copying by any person” and that meetings of two or more officials must be announced and open to the public.
“An agency can deny release of a record only if there is a specific statutory exemption,” Petersen explains.
Exemptions can only be created by state legislators – who haven’t been shy about asking for them. Petersen, whose organization tracks legislative threats to open government, said there are already 1,122 public records exemptions on the books. At her latest count in mid-April, she had identified 112 similar bills pending in the current legislative session alone. Every day, she monitors their progress through the Florida House and Senate websites and scours new bills for new exemptions.
So how did Florida earn its status? A century of reform.
The state’s first open meeting and public records laws were enacted in 1905 and 1909, respectively. In 1968, new, stronger ones were implemented to counteract the influence of the so-called “Pork Chop gang,” a group of conservative Democrats who had a stranglehold over the legislature.
Furthermore, says Petersen, “we had a very broad interpretation of sunshine laws by the Florida Supreme Court.”
While the initial law stated that all meetings should be noticed and open to public, it didn’t define “meeting.” The court held that it meant a meeting of two or more officials. This year, one bill that Petersen is tracking – and opposing – seeks to define a meeting as three or more officials.
An amendment to the Florida constitution in 1992 stated that any bill asking for exemptions to public-records law must state the factual need for the exemption, be no broader than the stated purpose, and must be in bill all by itself, Petersen said.
“Prior to that going into effect, you’d see a 900-page bill related to the insurance regulations, and on page 217, it’d say, ‘and by the way, all records and meetings are exempt.”
Many such bills are now marked as “an act related to public records,” which makes them easier to track.
Petersen keeps a spreadsheet highlighting about 150 bills of concern and checks the house and senate websites to track them as they move through the legislature.
Some, the First Amendment Foundation supports. Others, it opposes.
“We always write letters [to leaders] saying, ‘This one could be amended,’ or ‘This so bad, you need to withdraw it.”
Currently, the four bills Peterson considers “really bad” include the aforementioned new definition of a meeting, and another exemption to hide the identity of anybody who witnesses a murder.
“The rationale, which is not supported by facts, is that witnesses don’t come forward because of public records law, which is ridiculous.”
Another “bad” bill would close records related to hiring for public university presidents, provosts, or dean. Politicians argue that quality candidates will not apply if their application is public.
“If that rationale applies to university presidents, why wouldn’t it apply to city managers or school board superintendents?” counters Petersen. “If this were to pass, we’d see an avalanche of similar exemptions.”
The last “really bad” bill exempts photos and videos that depict the killing of a person.
“On its face, it doesn’t sound awful — except that it defines the killing of a person to include anything that precedes or immediately follows a death,” said Peterson. “All of those cop-killing videos, [like the one of South Carolina’s Walter Scott], who was was running away when an officer shot him in the back, would be exempt.”
But the First Amendment Foundation stays neutral on a lot of bills, and even supports some.
Petersen sees some as well-intentioned but poorly executed, like one measure that sought to exempt soldiers’ personal information for their safety –- “Like ISIS is making public records requests,” she quips — but required the creation of even more public records in the exemption process.
And ultimately, politicians can find ways around sunshine laws, with or without any bills. For instance, Florida governor Rick Scott notoriously avoids using email and text messages.
“You can’t make them create a public record,” Petersen sighed.
“We don’t get into trying to protect information from flowing into the hands of government, but if the government’s already got it, we support all efforts towards transparency and fighting to preserve access.”
The Supreme Court seemed ready to hand a victory to railroad company BNSF in a lawsuit brought by two of the company’s injured workers. A solid majority of the justices appeared unconvinced that the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, a federal law that allows railroad workers to sue their employers for injuries that occur on the job, allows the workers to sue the company – which is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Texas – in Montana, even though neither worker lived in Montana or was injured there.
Arguing for BNSF, attorney Andrew Tulumello told the justices that the Montana state court’s decision allowing the case against the railroad to go forward was flatly wrong. Under the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, he contended, the Montana courts could not have jurisdiction over the injured workers’ lawsuits because the railroad was not “at home” in Montana.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg challenged that assertion. Sotomayor asked Tulumello whether BNSF had registered its business in Montana. When Tulumello responded that it had, Sotomayor suggested that registration in Montana might “change things.” If she established residency in several different states, she observed, she could be sued in those states. Alluding to the court’s campaign-finance jurisprudence, she asked pointedly, “If you are going to treat a corporation like a person, which we seem to be doing,” why wouldn’t a corporation be subject to suit in the states where it is registered? Ginsburg echoed that idea, telling Tulumello that by registering in Montana, the company had effectively consented to jurisdiction in the state.
Tulumello pushed back, countering that the text of the Montana law that requires BNSF to register specifically provides that personal jurisdiction over companies cannot be based solely on registration in the state. And any traction that the two justices might have temporarily gained from their line of questions seemed to vanish when Chief Justice John Roberts asked Tulumello whether that issue was actually even before the Supreme Court. No, Tulumello responded.
Justice Samuel Alito also posed a fairly friendly question, asking Tulumello to address assertions by the workers’ supporters that a ruling for the railroad would “create chaos” in the court system. Tulumello assured Alito that the result would actually be the opposite, likening the current system to the “wild west.”
After a relatively easy time at the lectern, Tulumello sat down early, using only 11 of his 20 minutes. He was followed by Nicole Saharsky, the assistant to the U.S. solicitor general representing the federal government, which filed a brief supporting BNSF. The justices allowed Saharsky to speak at some length, and she too sat down early.
Julie Murray represented plaintiffs Robert Nelson, who contends that he suffered a serious knee injury while working as a fuel-truck driver, and Kelli Tyrrell, who alleges that her husband Brent died of cancer that he contracted as a result of his exposure to chemicals while working for BNSF. Murray emphasized the long history of injured railroad workers being able to sue under FELA. When it enacted FELA, she stressed, Congress expressly intended that workers would be able to bring these kinds of lawsuits, even when neither the workers nor the injuries had any connection to the state where they were filed. This is so, she explained, because Congress recognized that railroads operate differently from many other industries – for example, she noted, it is commonplace that railroad workers will never work in their home states.
Roberts was skeptical, reminding Murray that BNSF operates in over two dozen states. Does this mean, he asked Murray, that the railroad can be sued in one of those states even if the injury occurs elsewhere? Yes, Murray responded, that is what Congress intended.
Roberts wondered aloud whether the decision to sue BNSF in Montana might be related to the perception that Montana would be a more desirable forum in which to sue a large corporation. Murray explained that, because of the large volume of FELA cases filed in Montana, the state’s judges know the issues “like the back of their hand” – an answer that Roberts characterized as “a little circular.”
Alito seemed to agree with Roberts, telling Murray that he could understand why Congress would want an injured railroad worker to be able to sue in the state where the injury occurred, in the state where the worker lives, and in the state where the company is headquartered. But why, he queried somewhat rhetorically, should a worker be able to sue anywhere?
In more troubling news for Tyrrell and Nelson, some of the court’s more liberal justices also appeared dubious. Ginsburg noted that the language in the FELA provision on which the plaintiffs rely is found in “200-odd” other laws dealing with venue – that is, the place where lawsuits may be filed. It sounds like a venue provision, Ginsburg declared.
Murray added that even if the justices were to decide that FELA does not confer jurisdiction over BNSF, the Montana courts would still have jurisdiction over BNSF because of the company’s contacts with Montana. The railroad has a “gigantic footprint” in the state, she emphasized, and BNSF and its predecessor have been in Montana since before it even joined the Union.
This discussion led to one of the lighter moments of the morning. Agreeing that a railroad would have a “large physical plant” in a state, Roberts asked Murray whether other industries, like the trucking industry, could also be “at home” under this theory. How, he inquired, do we make that decision?
Murray told Roberts that her clients’ argument was limited to railroads, which she characterized as “unique” because of their reliance on fixed tracks. Trucking companies, she seemed to suggest, would be different because trucks could use roads to travel all over the state.
Roberts was unconvinced. No, he retorted, trucks would all generally use the same interstate highways to traverse the state. “They’ll take I-95,” he said, before hesitating. “What is it, I-90?”
The court’s newest justice, who hails from Colorado, chimed in. “It’s I-80, across Montana.”
Roberts then quipped, “It’s that geographic diversity.”
A few minutes passed, during which some of the justices apparently requested – and then passed around – atlases from the justices’ library. After some animated conversations with his neighbors on the bench, Sotomayor and Justice Stephen Breyer, Gorsuch interrupted Murray to apologize for an error. “It’s I-90 across Montana, and I-80 across Wyoming.”
Breyer then had a question that did not seem to portend well for Tyrrell and Nelson either. He asserted that, in the court’s earlier decision in Daimler, the company had an extensive operation in California, where the plaintiffs sought unsuccessfully to sue it. You’re “making a valiant effort,” he told Murray, “but I don’t really see a difference.”
Tulumello used only a few minutes of his remaining time when he returned to the lectern for his rebuttal. Due process, he contended, does not depend on what line of business you are in. Based on today’s argument, a clear majority of the court seems to agree with him.
The post Argument analysis: Justices likely to hand victory to railroad in jurisdictional dispute appeared first on SCOTUSblog.
It’s the penultimate day of arguments in this modest term, and after issuing its opinion in Lewis v. Clarke (about tribal sovereign immunity) and conducting bar admissions, the court is just a few minutes into the oral argument in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California (about personal jurisdiction).
And then … a cellphone ringtone goes off. The Supreme Court police department has been especially vigilant in keeping visitors from bringing such devices into the courtroom since a couple of high-profile protests involving hidden pen cameras in recent years.
But cellphones do occasionally end up in the ornate courtroom and announce themselves. Today, the culprit is a 23-year veteran of the bench. Justice Stephen Breyer looks a bit sheepish as he maneuvers to silence his phone’s lively chime.
Justices Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan chuckle. Breyer looks to Chief Justice John Roberts with an apologetic expression before sharing a laugh with Justice Clarence Thomas. Some of my colleagues think they see Breyer handing the phone to one of the court aides who sit behind the justices.
Neal Katyal, the former acting U.S. solicitor general who is arguing on behalf of Bristol-Myers Squibb at that moment, appears unflustered by the interruption.
(Later in the argument, there is another short cellphone disturbance, a “pinging” sound. It’s not clear who is responsible for that one.)
I would like to be able to say that after the argument, reporters retired to the press room and began discussing the finer points of personal jurisdiction. But all we can really talk about for several minutes is Justice Breyer’s cellphone.
First, who would be calling him at 10:13 a.m. on an argument day?
Supreme Court Public Information Officer Kathleen Arberg says she will check with the justice’s chambers to confirm our eyewitness recollections. But Breyer is still on the bench for the second case, she reminds us. Well, couldn’t she just call him there and ask? one smart-aleck reporter queries. (OK, it was this smart aleck.)
A little later, Arberg confirms that it was indeed Breyer whose cellphone went off. It was “an oversight” that he brought the phone into the courtroom, and it was not something he normally does, she says. But it did liven up the first of two civil procedure arguments on a rainy day.
[Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel to the respondents in Bristol-Myers. The author of this post, however, is not affiliated with the firm.]
Argument analysis: Justices seem inclined to avoid creating “an enormous hole in the doctrine of procedural default” in nested ineffective-assistance case
It probably was not a good sign for Houston criminal-defense attorney Seth Kretzer, arguing yesterday on behalf of petitioner Erick Davila in Davila v. Davis, when, early in his opening presentation, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that the court could decide the case on narrower grounds than those presented in his petition – by ruling that his client’s claim that his direct appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance was meritless. Kretzer did his best to persuade the justices that they should indeed reach the question presented, that is, whether a prisoner’s failure to raise the ineffectiveness of his direct appellate counsel in a collateral state post-conviction proceeding can be excused by the ineffectiveness of the post-conviction lawyer. But there seemed to be few takers across the bench for Kretzer’s argument that the Supreme Court should extend its 2012 decision in Martinez v. Ryan and answer that question in the affirmative. Indeed, if the justices are inclined to reach the question presented, it seemed clear by the end of Monday’s 59-minute argument that they would likely resolve it in favor of the respondent, Lorie Davis, director of the Correctional Institutions Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
As noted in the argument preview, this case is, in many ways, a sequel to Martinez. In Martinez, a 7-2 majority held that the ineffective assistance of a prisoner’s lawyer in state post-conviction proceedings would excuse the prisoner’s failure to press the underlying ineffective assistance claim adequately — and would therefore allow a federal habeas court to reach the merits of the original claim of ineffective assistance by the prisoner’s counsel during his criminal trial. In Davila, the question is whether a failure to raise an ineffective-assistance claim in a state post-conviction proceeding could similarly be excused by the ineffective assistance of the post-conviction counsel when the underlying ineffective assistance was rendered on appeal, rather than at trial. And as multiple justices pointed out during Monday’s argument, that’s a significant distinction, because, in such cases, the issue was raised at trial, so that one of the concerns raised in Martinez – the fact that a defendant might never have a meaningful opportunity to press a viable constitutional claim – is not implicated.
With some help from Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, Kretzer responded that Martinez was not only about ensuring that prisoners had at least one meaningful opportunity to raise constitutional objections to their convictions, but also about preventing prisoners from having meritorious arguments forfeited by deficient appellate lawyers. But perhaps the dominant theme of Kretzer’s presentation was the concern raised by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito that extending Martinez to ineffective assistance of appellate counsel would, in Alito’s words, “blast an enormous hole in the doctrine of procedural default,” allowing federal habeas counsel to identify a range of issues not pressed by counsel on appeal and not raised in the state post-conviction proceeding that, if Martinez applied, could be litigated on federal habeas if both the appellate and post-conviction lawyers were constitutionally ineffective. And unlike Martinez and the subsequent decision in Trevino v. Thaler, which only apply to those states that either formally or functionally preclude defendants from raising ineffective assistance of trial counsel on direct appeal, extending Martinez to ineffective assistance of appellate counsel would potentially allow claims in every state, because, in every state, the collateral post-conviction proceeding is the first opportunity (whether in general or after the direct appeal) to raise an ineffective-assistance claim.
Kretzer usefully countered with anecdotal evidence about the lack of an explosion in claims after Martinez and Trevino were decided – even from the states to which they applied. But his efforts did not appear to move the needle.
Arguing on behalf of the state, Texas solicitor general Scott Keller did not miss the opportunity to capitalize on the justices’ skepticism during Kretzer’s argument, opening with the suggestion that “[e]xtending Martinez to appellate-IAC claims will have a huge systemic cost by opening up the entire trial and everything that happened at trial to Federal habeas review.” Sotomayor, with help from Justices Kagan and Stephen Breyer, spent a fair amount of energy pushing back against various threads of Keller’s argument, but when Kennedy’s sole intervention during the state’s argument in a capital case is to “fortify” the state lawyer’s argument, it’s usually an ominous portent for the prisoner. The real question, it seems, is not whether Texas prevails in this case, but whether the justices who are less openly hostile to the prospect of extending Martinez to ineffective assistance of appellate counsel can persuade their colleagues to save that question for another day.
We live-blogged this morning as the court issues opinions. The transcript is available at this link.
In today’s edition, we share more strategies for small cities looking to do big things with open data, ask why fewer lobbyists are spending more money this year, dig into the complicated communications situation around a vital EPA data site, and more…states and cities
- Strategies for small cities getting started with open data. Sunlight’s Alyssa Doom continued to help small cities embrace open data by sharing some proven strategies on the Sunlight Foundation blog and encouraging interested cities to investigate the What Works Cities Certification Program.
- Bethlehem, Pennsylvania moves towards open data. “In Bethlehem, city leaders are considering posting already public information online, hoping data lovers might spin it into something useful.” Last month, the city council passed a resolution that would result in an open data plan. (The Morning Call)
- Indiana governor vetoes legislation that would have imposed unnecessary fees on public records requests. Earlier this month, we urged Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to veto a bill that would have put a fee on public records access. Yesterday the governor announced that he had done just that. Get the full story and read the governor’s statement on Twitter.
- Mapping Trump’s global conflicts of interest. “President Donald Trump came into office pledging to avoid conflicts of interest by resigning from his global business empire and handing control to his sons. Despite those steps, more potential conflicts have surfaced since his inauguration, fueled by the president’s critics and, in one case, his own tweet. Prominent examples – and the White House rebuttals – are summarized here.” (VOA News)
- State department pulls blog post on Mar-A-Lago following ethics complaints. “The U.S. State Department has removed its promotional posting about President Donald Trump’s Florida resort, after a storm of ethics criticism Monday…In an April 4 blog post that was republished by several U.S. embassies abroad, Mar-a-Lago was described as ‘Trump’s Florida estate,’ where he has hosted foreign leaders.” (Associated Press) Check out Quartz, The Hill, and POLITICO for more coverage.
- Pop-up, miscommunication fuel as-yet unfounded fears of EPA open data disappearance. Yesterday, a pop-up message indicating that the Environmental Protection Agency’s open data portal would be going offline at the end of this week sparked fear that the data could disappear permanently. It appears that the message was related to a potential government shutdown and representatives from the EPA have since clarified that the portal and its data are not going anywhere. For more on this story we recommend reading this story on Snopes, Alex Howard’s thread on Twitter, and our statement on Facebook.
- New law allows NOAA to purchase weather data from commercial satellite systems. “…the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 [signed this week by President Trump] allows NOAA to spend up to $6 million a year to conduct a pilot procurement program that will study the effectiveness of commercial data to aid weather forecasts from fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2020.” (Government Executive)
- Ethics watchdog files complaint tied to Georgia special election. “A conservative-leaning ethics foundation filed an inquiry Monday with the Office of Congressional Ethics, asking it to look into Rep. Hank Johnson’s use of official resources to help Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign.” (Roll Call)
- Number of registered lobbyists drops, spending increases. Potentially in response to President Trump’s strong rhetoric on the campaign trail “from January to March, the number of registered lobbyists dropped 10.3 percent compared to 2016’s first quarter, with only 9,175 official lobbyists on record. That number has been declining in recent years, but this is the biggest drop since lobbying reports started being reported quarterly.” Meanwhile, total lobbying spending had its biggest 1st quarter since 2012. (OpenSecrets.org)
- #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets here! This one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress.
- April 26th, 6:00 PM: “Participatory Organizing: From Co-Op to Network to Mass Movement” in Washington, DC. The OpenGov Hub is hosting a co-created workshop on collaborative culture and non-hierarchical organizing. We combine storytelling and participation to learn together about democratic, bottom-up organizing at different scales: from co-ops, to networks, cities and nations. We’ll offer some practices and tools that have helped us, and discover the intelligence in the room too. Learn more and register here.
- April 27th, 7:45 AM, DATA Act Breakfast “Spending Data Unleashed”, in Washington, DC. “The Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton invite you to a breakfast panel discussion for a front-row seat on the first fruits of the DATA Act. Join us on Thursday, April 27th, at the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Center.” Learn more and get your tickets here.
- April 28th, 11:00 AM: Digital Inclusion Asset Mapping, Connect Chicago Meetup in Chicago, Illinois. “At the next Connect Chicago Meetup we will break into working groups to co-build a better shared inventory of public digital inclusion resources and assets.” Learn more here.
- May 17th and 18th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the Kemp Forum in Washington, DC. “Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress.” Learn more here.
- May 17th: The 2017 Door Stop Awards in Washington, DC. “Lincoln Network and The OpenGov Foundation are joining forces to present the 2017 Door Stop Awards for Congressional Innovation and Transparency. Awards will be presented on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at an evening party as part of Reboot Congress.” Learn more here.
- May 19th and 20th: Global Legislative Openness Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. “This 2-day event is hosted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and Open Parliament Initiative in Ukraine. The event will convene leading legislators, government officials, and civil society representatives to consider how legislative openness can strengthen public trust in representative institutions and build a responsive, 21st century legislature. In addition, the conference will explore how parliaments can best leverage the Open Government Partnership’s new legislative engagement policy to develop and implement legislative openness plans and commitments.” Learn more here.
- June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. “The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen.” Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.
- September 11th and 12th: TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. “TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts.” The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. Learn more, submit a session proposal, and register to attend here.
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Today the court hears oral argument in two cases. First up is Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, another civil procedure case involving a court’s specific jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants sued by out-of-state plaintiffs. Ronald Mann previewed the case for this blog. [Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel to the respondents in this case.] Andrew Maury and Eugene Temchenko preview the case for Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute. The second argument today of the day is BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell, in which the justices will consider the contours of personal jurisdiction for lawsuits brought under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. Amy Howe had this blog‘s preview. Karen Smeda and Natalia San Juan preview the case for Cornell. At the Cato Institute’s Cato at Liberty blog, Walter Olson argues that today’s cases offer the court an opportunity to draw lines that will enable “the federal judiciary to police overreaching by state courts in their jurisdictional claims.”
Yesterday the justices released their orders from last Friday’s private conference; although they did not grant review in any cases, the order list included several statements related to the denial of certiorari. Amy Howe covers the order list for this blog. At the Cato Institute’s Police Misconduct.net project, Tim Lynch discusses Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent from the court’s decision to deny review to a lower court’s ruling granting qualified immunity to a police officer who was sued for shooting a suspect; he argues that at “the least, the jury should have decided whether the shot was truly justified.” In The Atlantic, Ian MacDougall points to “growing concern in the legal community that judges in police civil-rights lawsuits are usurping the jury’s role” and that by “twisting the ordinary procedure of summary judgment …, these judges prematurely shut down lawsuits by, in effect, crediting the officer over the plaintiff.” Another look at Sotomayor’s dissent, and at Justice Samuel Alito’s concurrence in the denial, comes from Will Baude at The Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog, who questions Alito’s “description of the court’s neutral principles of certiorari,” observes that “the broader pattern of qualified immunity cases … suggests a double standard for the court’s jurisdiction,” and notes that “in the past 35 years, the overwhelming majority of the court’s qualified immunity decisions have been in favor of officers whose immunity was denied by the lower courts.” At ThinkProgress, Ian Millhiser agrees that the court “appears to be applying a double standard,” maintaining that a “majority of the justices are willing to step out of their usual role to protect cops caught up by a dubious lower court decision, but they are unwilling to do the same favor for a person shot by a cop.”
Yesterday the court heard argument in McWilliams v. Dunn, which asks whether an Arkansas defendant in a capital case whose mental health was at issue was entitled to assistance from a psychiatrist independent of the prosecution. Amy Howe analyzes the argument for this blog. In The Washington Post, Robert Barnes reports that the court’s “liberals and conservatives seemed to disagree Monday” and that, as “is often the case, it may be that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy holds the deciding vote.”
- In The Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog, David Post weighs in on Justice Clarence Thomas’ solo dissent last week in Nelson v. Colorado, in which the court held that a state cannot require a defendant whose conviction is invalidated to prove actual innocence before recovering fines and fees imposed as a consequence of the conviction; Post maintains that Thomas’ assertion that “the money that the petitioners seek is not ‘their money’ at all; it’s Colorado’s money” should be “enough to send chills down the spine of any right-thinking libertarian.”
- At the Cato Institute’s Cato at Liberty blog, Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry urge the court to grant review in a case involving a challenge to a California law that requires family-planning clinics to inform their patients about state programs that provide free or low-cost access to family planning services that include abortions; they argue that “[c]ompelling licensed professionals to speak the government’s message is dangerous” because “it allows the government to impermissibly put its thumb on the scale in a social debate, by conscripting individuals to help spread a particular message.”
- At ImmigrationProf Blog, Nancy Morawetz looks at Maslenjak v. United States, a case on tomorrow’s argument agenda that asks whether a naturalized U.S. citizen can be stripped of her citizenship in a criminal proceeding based on an immaterial false statement, noting that the “oral argument comes at a time when Trump administration officials have made it very clear that they will pursue maximal enforcement under the powers they have.”
- In Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), Tony Mauro provides “thumbnail sketches” of the four law clerks assisting Justice Neil Gorsuch during “his short transitional period at the high court until the current term winds down this summer.”
- At Reuters, Andrew Chung reports that “General Motors Co’s bid to block hundreds of lawsuits, potentially worth billions of dollars, over a deadly ignition-switch defect broke down” when the court yesterday declined to consider “its appeal claiming the suits were barred by the No. 1 American automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy.”
Remember, we rely exclusively on our readers to send us links for our round-up. If you have or know of a recent (published in the last two or three days) article, post, or op-ed relating to the Court that you’d like us to consider for inclusion in the round-up, please send it to roundup [at] scotusblog.com.
The petition of the day is:McKnight v. Peterson 16-1003
Issues: (1) Whether, viewing the facts from the petitioner’s perspective, he acted reasonably, under the Fourth Amendment, in firing in self defense, when an officer in his situation would believe that the suspect was armed, was suspected of a violent crime, refused to show his concealed hand, refused commands, and came at the officer; and (2) whether the petitioner was entitled to qualified immunity, when existing precedent did not clearly establish that the use of deadly force was unlawful under the particular situation faced by the officer, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s analysis contravened the U.S. Supreme Court’s explicit directions.
Via LLRX.com – Google Books is not Alexandria redux – Chris Meadows revisits a subject, Google Books, that has been the focal point of legal action, disagreement within the publishing and library communities, and basically an issue lacking closure concerning the end product. Meadows reiterates the Second Circuit finding on Google Books and fair uses in his response to the continued quest of some groups to restore the “Library of Alexandria.” Also see his related article, Oh Lord, please don’t let Google Book Search be misunderstood.
Via LLRX.com – Oh Lord, please don’t let Google Book Search be misunderstood – In what became a two part article, Chris Meadows responds to the continuing commentary and rebuttals on the Google Books decision and access to the search engine that remains available to query a huge index of full-text books and access the text of scanned copies of books in the public domain. The second part of Meadows’ rebuttal was prompted by the publication of yet another article, and is also republished on LLRX – Google Books is not Alexandria redux.