OPEN GOVERNMENT -- The former California First Amendment Coalition has dropped the first word from that name in keeping with its increasing attention to national and even international issues, Executive Director Peter Scheer announced yesterday.
We shrunk our name to confirm our expanding role in First Amendment litigation and policy, and to acknowledge the diminished relevance of any state’s borders in an era when information published in, say, Eureka, CA is available instantly and everywhere via the internet.
The First Amendment Coalition (”FAC” or “the Coalition” for short) for many years has been involved in legal matters, including federal appellate cases, whose effects extend beyond California’s borders. More recently we have worked to curtail the Chinese government’s censorship of the internet, petitioning the Office of the US Trade Representative to challenge China’s “Great Firewall” as a violation of international treaties enforced by the WTO.
In the past month we filed an amicus brief in Citizens United v. FEC, a closely-watched case in the US Supreme Court whose outcome could profoundly change the constitutional rules governing Congress’ and the states’ regulation of campaign finances. And just this week, in a case before the Court of Appeals for the US fifth circuit (based in Texas), we filed our own amicus brief to defend local government open-meeting laws, like California’s Brown Act, from a potentially devastating national legal challenge.
But make no mistake: California remains at the top of FAC’s priorities, even if it’s no longer in our name. Just this week FAC joined with the Modesto Bee in filing suit against Stanislaus County to compel disclosure of the amounts of pension payments to retired county employees–information needed by the paper for its reporting on county governance and finance issues.