AAN News

Federal Judge Orders Ex-Reporter to Personally Pay Contempt Finesnew

The Associated Press via the Boston Herald  |  03-10-2008  12:35 pm  |  Legal News

More on Orlando Weekly Settlementnew

"All sides claimed victory" yesterday when the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) dropped 18 charges against the Weekly, which in turn agreed to stop running adult ads and pay the MBI $10,000 for its investigation, the Orlando Sentinel reports. In addition, the paper's three employees who were personally charged agreed to perform 100 hours of community service within nine months to have their charges dismissed. "There's no need to proceed to a jury trial ... when everything that needed to be done is being done," MBI director Bill Lutz says. "They have stepped up. They've actually done more than we asked." But the Weekly says the MBI settled because it knew it was going to lose the case. "It is no coincidence that the MBI entered into settlement talks a week before today's scheduled motion-to-dismiss hearing, in which the Weekly was prepared to argue, essentially, that the MBI was making up the law as it went along," the paper says in an initial report. The Weekly promises to have a full account of the investigation and settlement on its website soon.
The Orlando Sentinel | Orlando Weekly  |  02-28-2008  1:10 pm  |  Legal News

Judge Grants Injunction in Metro Times Voter Info Casenew

A federal judge on Wednesday granted a request for a preliminary injunction in a case brought in January by the ACLU of Michigan on behalf of Metro Times, three political parties, and a political consulting firm, the Associated Press reports. The suit seeks information about who voted in the state's primary and whether they took a Republican or Democratic ballot -- records that are currently available only to those two political parties. Under current law, the secretary of state is required to provide this information to the parties within 71 days of the primary, which was held this year on Jan. 15. But the plaintiffs argue that violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The ruling yesterday prevents the information from being disseminated before the judge can make a definitive decision. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for March 26.
The Associated Press via the Detroit Free Press  |  02-28-2008  8:29 am  |  Legal News

NYT: The Cult of Secrecy at the White Housenew

"There’s no end to President Bush’s slyness in subverting new Congressional law and clinging to the secrecy that has been the administration’s executive cloak," says the New York Times today in an editorial decrying the budgetary legerdemain Bush used to gut a key provision of the recently passed OPEN Government Act. The Washington Examiner editorial page weighs in on the controversy as well.
New York Times  |  02-07-2008  1:17 pm  |  Legal News

Justice Fails to Meet Current Responsibilities under FOIA

In its FY09 budget proposal released earlier this week, the Bush Administration transfered to the Justice Department the Freedom of Information Act ombudsman position recently created by an act of Congress. The Bureau of National Affairs (subscription only) reports today that Justice failed to meet its own FOIA backlog reduction goal of 15 percent for 2007. "This should never happen, especially at the department that is responsible for reviewing other agency annual FOIA reports for accuracy," a former Justice official told BNA. The Justice Department currently provides guidance to federal agencies on FOIA compliance and also has a role in defending agencies against challenges to FOIA denials. Critics of the administration's proposal contend that because of its role in defending FOIA challenges, Justice lacks the neutrality to handle the new ombudsman function. More on the controversy from the Washington Post, the Ocala Star-Banner and Scripps Howard News Service.
BNA | Washington Post | Ocala Star-Banner | Scripps Howard News Service  |  02-06-2008  7:43 pm  |  Legal News

Bush Tries to Eliminate FOIA Ombudsmannew

Only 35 days after signing the OPEN Government Act into law, President Bush wants to kill a key provision of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reform bill via a budgetary maneuver, reports Cox Newspapers' Washington Bureau. Bush's proposal would eliminate funding for an ombudsman at the National Archive and Records Administration and transfer the role of settling FOIA disputes to the Justice Department. Open government advocates believe Justice has a conflict of interest that would inevitably lead the department to defend federal agencies seeking to keep government records secret. "This proposal violates both the explicit text of the OPEN Government Act and its legislative intent," bill sponsors Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) wrote today in a letter expressing their opposition to Bush's spending plan.
Cox Newspapers Washington Bureau  |  02-05-2008  5:27 pm  |  Legal News

Court Rules Against Santa Barbara Independent Photographer's Appealnew

The Court of Appeals has ruled against the Indy's appeal of contempt charges stemming from photographer Paul Wellman's refusal to turn over about 300 photographs taken in the aftermath of the murder, the paper reports.
Santa Barbara Independent  |  01-25-2008  8:46 am  |  Legal News

White House Attempting to Move FOIA Ombud to Justice Dept.new

The creation of an ombudsman to oversee disputes over the Freedom of Information Act was the centerpiece of the FOIA reform bill signed into law last month. Cox News reports that the Open Government Act placed the ombudsman at the National Archives because of criticism leveled at the Justice Department for failing to address chronic FOIA backlogs. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) are speaking out against the administration's attempt to move the position to Justice. "Such a move is not only contrary to the express intent of the Congress, but it is also contrary to the very purpose of this legislation -- to ensure the timely and fair resolution of American's FOIA requests," Leahy said in a floor speech on Wednesday.
Cox News Service via the Austin American-Statesman  |  01-24-2008  1:29 pm  |  Legal News

Bay Guardian/VVM Trial Begins

In court this week, a Guardian witness disavowed a key piece of evidence -- AAN's financial standards report -- that the paper was using to prove its predatory pricing charge against SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and Village Voice Media. The witness backed away from the AAN report after the Weekly's attorney's produced an affidavit from the woman who had compiled it asserting that it was unaudited and self-reported, "rendering it meaningless as a measure of financial performance," the Weekly reports. After considering this and motions from both parties on Wednesday and Thursday, the Weekly says the judge "ultimately concluded that the Weekly deserved additional time to respond, a decision which could delay the long-awaited trial." Naturally, the Guardian sees this week's developments a little differently. "If this is how the SF Weekly and the VVM guys from Phoenix are going to cover the trial, we're going to have to spend a lot of time correcting the record," Guardian executive editor Tim Redmond writes. He says that the Weekly's attorneys had "tried desperately" to keep the Guardian's witness from taking the stand at all, and sees the disavowal of the AAN financial data as inconsequential. The witness had developed two scenarios to show how much money the Guardian had lost, and not being allowed to use the AAN data, he will just rely on the other standards instead, according to Redmond.
SF Weekly | San Francisco Bay Guardian  |  01-18-2008  6:00 pm  |  Legal News

Bay Guardian/VVM Trial Scheduled to Begin Tomorrownew

The predatory pricing suit against SF Weekly and Village Voice Media asserts that the Weekly sold ads below cost to push the Guardian out of business. (The suit also names former VVM property East Bay Express as a defendant.) VVM executive editor Michael Lacey thinks Bay Guardian publisher/editor Bruce Brugmann is using the Weekly as a "scapegoat" for his own problems in dealing with new challenges in print media. "[The lawsuit] is how he's hoping to maintain his business in a really tough media market," Lacey tells The San Francisco Daily Journal, a local legal publication. But Brugmann disputes this notion. "From our point of view, the fact that the economy is not good and there are other problems in this business only makes this problem more acute," he says. Jury selection is set to begin tomorrow in San Francisco County Superior Court. Legal experts tell the Daily Journal that predatory-pricing cases face different odds depending on where they are filed, adding that California superior courts are generally seen as more friendly to plaintiffs than federal courts.
The San Francisco Daily Journal (Subscription Required)  |  01-16-2008  8:58 am  |  Legal News

Nevada County Faces Federal Lawsuit Over Upping Newsrack Feesnew

Las Vegas Business Press  |  01-15-2008  11:19 am  |  Legal News

Metro Times Joins Suit for Disclosure of Voter Informationnew

The ACLU of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit in Detroit today on behalf of Metro Times, three political parties, and a political consulting firm, to overturn a law that enables only the Democratic and Republican parties to obtain lists of people who will vote on Tuesday's presidential primary, the Detroit Free Press reports. The law, passed last August, doesn't require voters to register by party, so the ACLU is arguing that the party in which residents will cast votes is valuable to political parties, candidates, journalists and citizen groups.
The Detroit Free Press  |  01-11-2008  2:20 pm  |  Legal News

Federal Judge Dismisses Arkansas Times Lawsuit on Executionsnew

The First Amendment provides no guarantee that witnesses should be able to see every step of an execution in Arkansas, a federal judge ruled as she dismissed a lawsuit by the Arkansas Times and local chapters of the ACLU and the Society for Professional Journalists, the AP reports. The suit sought to allow journalists to witness the prisoner as (s)he is led to the execution chamber, strapped down, and inserted with IVs. In her ruling, the judge wrote that executions have "moved from the public square to inside prison walls," an area where the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled reporters have no special right to access. "Even if constitutionally we don't have a right to be there at every step of that process, public accountability demands that we should be," Times editor Max Brantley says, adding that he and the other parties would confer with lawyers before deciding whether to appeal the ruling.
The Associated Press  |  01-09-2008  9:18 am  |  Legal News

President Signs FOIA Reform Billnew

On Monday, George Bush signed into law the first revision of the Freedom of Information Act in a decade, the AP reports. The legislation, which cleared Congress last month, creates a system for the media and public to track the status of their FOIA requests. It also establishes a hotline service for all federal agencies to deal with problems and an ombudsman. Under the new law, federal agencies would be required to meet a 20-day deadline for responding to FOIA requests.
The Associated Press  |  01-02-2008  11:52 am  |  Legal News

Phoenix New Times Reporter Rejects Deal in Public Records Casenew

In October, as the New Times grand-jury probe fiasco bubbled to the surface, reporter Ray Stern was given a criminal citation for disorderly conduct after an argument over taking photos of public records at the sheriff's office. Stern said Monday that a Phoenix prosecutor offered him a fine of $100 or attending anger management classes in exchange for a guilty plea, the Associated Press reports. "I'm not going to (plead guilty)," he says. "I know I wasn't yelling."
The Associated Press via Editor & Publisher  |  12-26-2007  10:58 am  |  Legal News