OPEN MEETINGS -- A warning from Californians Aware led to the cancellation of a meeting by a rural fire board Tuesday night that would have invited firefighters and volunteers into closed session to state their ideas for a new chief and for the future direction of the district.
PUBLIC INFORMATION -- The federal courts make serious money by keeping online public access to their case files a pay-to-play proposition, and don't want to give it up—despite freelance efforts to end their monopoly and a nudge from a senator to start complying with a 2002 act of Congress.
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- If you have not done so already, it's time to send Governor Schwarzenegger your message urging him to sign SB 786 (Yee), which would keep those who must sue to get public records or enforce the open meeting laws from being forced to pay the government's attorney fees if the court rules against them.
PUBLIC INFORMATION -- This is what can happen when police needlessly release only scraps of information rather than the actual records bearing on a controversial incident—until the predictable ignorance-based speculation forces an about-face.
PUBLIC INFORMATION -- Four months after four of Oakland's Finest were gunned down, their department is still sitting on records that might show why two highly trained SWAT sergeants died as they hunted for a gunman who had already murdered two motorcycle officers, writes columnist Tom Peele for the Bay Area News Group.
FREE PRESS -- Photos or video shot through standard lenses of scenes visible in or from public locations are still not going to be ruled actionable as an invasion of privacy, even in this era of Google Street Views, writes attorney Jonathan Bick in the New Jersey Law Journal.
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- Glenn Greenwald, writing in Salon.com, reports on "the war being waged on the TARP watchdog's independence" by the Treasury Department—with White House backing.
FREE SPEECH -- An older student recently in the education program at Stanford was a force to be reckoned with in a profession where unflattering blogging about peers and (organizational) superiors is a luxury usually deferred until tenure is achieved—if ever, reports columnist Jay Matthews for the Washington Post.
OPEN COURTS -- A Los Angeles federal judge took the almost unprecedented step of closing a two-day civil trial this week in a case involving the 2005 prison killing of Jewish Defense League activist Earl Krugel, reports Carol J. Williams for the Los Angeles Times.
PUBLIC INFORMATION -- "Every last detail of Matthew Elder's final years is located inside a binder the size of a dictionary—from his diagnosis with schizophrenia at 19 to his suicide on the Caltrain tracks at 23, hours after being released from jail," reports Mike Rosenberg for the San Mato County Times.
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- Mexico has a federal Freedom of Information Act, but so far it's not lived up to its authors' vision—for some special reasons, say researchers writing for the Mexican Law Review.
FREE PRESS -- A judge ruled last week that a San Francisco State University photojournalism student who was at the scene of a Bayview neighborhood street killing was a working journalist in the eyes of state law and did not have to surrender his photos to police, reports Jaxon Van Derbeken for the San Francisco Chronicle.
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- President Kennedy wanted to get the official record of U.S. diplomacy into the public eye as soon as possible, and used a 1961 directive to state that most information should be available after 15 years, reports Secrecy News editor Steven Aftergood.
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- "President Barack Obama has made some laudable gestures towards reform and transparency, but he has proved unwilling to make meaningful changes in the oversight, accountability, and prerogatives of the secret agencies he commands," writes U.C. Davis historian Kathryn Olmstead for the History News Network.
OPEN MEETINGS -- A San Mateo County Superior Court judge has blocked the city of East Palo Alto from discussing or taking any action on the dispute over a proposed Mi Pueblo Food Center, issuing a temporary injunction in response to a Brown Act complaint, reports Diana Samuels for the Palo Alto Daily News.
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will soon get the chance to sign—or veto—a bill to bar government agencies from demanding attorney fees from those who unsuccessfuly sue to enforce the Brown Act or other open government laws.
Your message to the Governor urging his signature is needed—now—to assure that result. Address a letter or postcard to:
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
and/or send an e-mail using the form at http://gov.ca.gov/interact#email. Select the "Other" subject heading, and on the next page (after submitting the first) enter in the subject line, "Please sign SB 786 (Yee)." In the body, state your reasons (see what others have said below).
FREE PRESS -- Fallbrook High School’s Tomahawk student newspaper, which was twice censored and had its journalism class eliminated, received the Tom Adler High School Journalism Award during the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) San Diego Chapter awards banquet June 25, reports the Fallbrook-Bonsall Village News.
PUBLIC INFORMATION -- State Senate officials have secretly approved a $70,000 legal settlement that prohibits a staffer who accused a former colleague of harassment from going public with the charges, reports Patrick McGreevy for the Los Angeles Times.
OPEN COURTS -- The California court system and Sacramento Superior Court in particular are being sued by a child welfare rights group for allegedly failing adequately to fund the dependency court processes that remove supposedly abused or neglected kids from their homes and farm them out to foster parents, report Cybthia Hubert and Denny Walsh for the Sacramento Bee.
FREE PRESS -- Here's how an aggrieved videographer, Luke Thomas, describes his run-in with badged authority while covering a meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
PUBLIC INFORMATION -- Are the not-quite-governmental fundraising foundations allied with California State University campuses determined to show why—contrary to their lobbyist's arguments to legislators—their records need to be as open to public review as those of the university itself?
FREE SPEECH -- A federal judge has barred the Los Angeles Community College District from enforcing a sexual harassment policy that bans "offensive" remarks in and out of the classroom, on grounds that its vagueness is unconstitutional, reports Gale Holland for the Los Angeles Times.
OPEN COURTS -- Among other issues around which Judge Sonia Sotomayor found herself tapdancing in her second session of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings today was the question of cameras in the courtroom—including in the chamber of the U.S. Supreme Court. Short answer: She's not afraid of video coverage herself, but would not try to rock the boat as a freshman justice. Of course, she said it much better.
FREE SPEECH -- Public educators' refusals to tolerate what they see as troublesome words or images on the T-shirts students wear to school come up with almost ritual regularity, and some lead to lawsuits arguing that the students' First Amendment rights have been abridged. The latest litigation comes from a Merced elementary school, where a then sixth grade student alleges that in April 2008 she was kept from wearing this shirt to classes:
FREE SPEECH -- The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that complaints by two San Bernardino police officers about their supervisors’ conduct toward them were not protected by the First Amendment, reports Kenneth Ofgang for the Metropolitan News-Enterprise in Los Angeles.
WHISTLEBLOWERS -- On a 50-24 vote, the California State Assembly today approved legislation to provide University of California employees who report waste, fraud and abuse with the same legal protections as other state employees, reports the office of its author, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo).
FREE SPEECH -- Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News reports that a federal judge today "sent mixed signals over the fate of a new law designed to target violent animal-rights protests, indicating he will rule later in the nation's first direct legal challenge to Congress' attempt to protect animal researchers and scientists from serious safety threats."
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- All California state contracts online? Maybe—hard to tell. And impossible to tell what the contracts are for. And that's just one drawback of the State of California's new Reporting Transparency in Government website—a facility that must be charitably considered a work in progress.