Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook View our profile on LinkedIn View our videos on YouTube

Congress shall make 
no law respecting an establishment of religion, 
or prohibiting the free 
exercise thereof; or 
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; 
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, 
and to petition the 
Government for a 
redress of grievances.



Boston Globe logo



We welcome contributions 
to The NEFAC Report from journalists, lawyers, academics 
or other advocates of 
government transparency. If 
you have something to add 
to the conversation, please let 
us know. Your stories, experiences and commentaries have broad appeal and value.
Submissions can be emailed to: [email protected]

"This report is a reminder of how badly we need to reform our state public records law. Reform is long overdue, and our lawmakers need to act now . . . Massachusetts should be leading the pack and not trailing the rest of the country."

Justin Silverman, NEFAC's executive director on a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity that gave Massachusetts an F grade for public records access.

"We cannot erode basic American rights in a gullible effort to 'expunge' criminal activity. Saying something never happened when it did is simply Orwellian. Rewriting history, or claiming it did not happen is an old Soviet ploy unworthy of free societies."

NEFAC's James Smith of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information discussing 'second chance' legislation.

"We have to remember that this is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Public officials are our servants working for us and we need to know what they're doing so we can properly oversee what they're doing on our behalf."

NEFAC's Robert Bertsche of Prince Lobel Tye, LLP, in a Telegram & Gazette article on the Massachusetts open meeting law.

"We, reporters and editors, are the transparency police. It's not the Department of Justice, which according to the House Oversight Committee chair lives in 'la la land' when it comes to its own transparency. It's not local law enforcement agencies like the 'Golden Padlock' award-winning Massachusetts State Police. It is people like you and me. Whether we realize it or not, 
we were sworn to protect government transparency the minute we received press credentials . . ."

NEFAC blogger Philip Eil on the responsibility of journalists to expose challenges to freedom of information.

"It's an important principle in all jurisdictions. All news organizations realize that this kind of commentary is quite common. If it became actionable, it would be a big change in the law and in how people communicate with each other in print, online and even face to face."

NEFAC's Jonathan Albano of Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP, analyzing a recent libel case ruling by the Massachusetts SJC in favor of the Boston Herald.

"The bill is a mixed bag. There are several improvements that could help the public obtain information. But there also changes that could make it difficult to get that information quickly and inexpensively."

Justin Silverman, NEFAC's executive director on a public records reform bill approved by Massachusetts lawmakers.

"That's the way the First Amendment is supposed to work - people speak up when they think something's wrong, and then the right things happen. Usually, though, it's not that easy. First, you need the facts. That's where state laws on public records and open meetings come in . . ."

NEFAC's Tom Kearney of the Waterbury Record and Stowe Reporter on why the First Amendment depends on the accessibility of government information.

 NEFAC REPORT | November 2015
2016 New England First Amendment Awards
February 19, 2016 | 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. | Boston Park Plaza | 50 Park Plaza at Arlington Street | Boston, Massachusetts | Purchase Tickets
Transparency Advocate U.S. Sen. Leahy to Receive NEFAC's First Amendment Award
A long-time champion of press freedom 
and First Amendment rights, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) will receive the New England First Amendment Coalition's 2016 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award. The award is named after the late publisher of The Providence Journal and given each year to an individual who has promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment throughout his or her career. [More]

NEFAC Seeking Applicants for FOI Award
The FOI Award is given each year to a New England journalist or team of journalists for a body of work from the previous calendar year that protects or advances the public's right to know under federal or state law. Preference is given to applicants who overcome significant official resistance. Application materials can be found here. The deadline for submissions is January 1, 2016. [More]

NEFAC Accepting Nominations for Citizenship Award
The Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award is given to an individual from one of the six New England states who has fought for information crucial to the public's understanding of what its government is doing - or not doing - on its behalf. The candidate should have shown tenacity or bravery in the face of difficulty while obtaining information that the public has a right to know. Nomination forms are here. The deadline is January 1, 2016. [More]
MassFOIA Encouraged by Public Records Legislation: A Step in the Right Direction
"The bill includes some notable improvements from our current law, but we still have a long way to go," said Justin Silverman from the New England First Amendment Coalition, a founding member of the Massachusetts Freedom of Information Alliance. "While the legislation provides helpful tools such as an attorney's fee provision and a Records Access Officer, it also provides custodians with more time to respond to requests and opportunities to defer costs to the requester. It's a start." [More] [Additional Coverage]
We Are The Transparency Police 
I'm currently fighting - via an ongoing FOIA lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration - for access to evidence shown during a high-profile prescription drug-dealing trial that ended in May of 2011. I've noticed a disturbing trend when pitching my story to news outlets: Journalists and editors, generally, seem hesitant to report about specific transparency failures. [More]
Connecticut's FOI Commission Rules 
that PR Consultants Are Not Lawyers 
Public relations consultants in Connecticut have no special protection when it comes to work they perform for a legal team on behalf of a public entity, according to a recent decision by the state's Freedom of Information Commission. The school district in Darien, one of the nation's wealthiest communities, had hired a former television reporter to help it navigate a crisis within its special education department. But school officials didn't hire the ex-journo directly - its lawyers hired the PR company and then billed the district about $50,000 for ten months of that company's services. [More]
No Secret Trials 
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly are to be commended for their 2015 "Second Chance Society" legislation, reversing racist laws that filled our jails with nonviolent drug users, most of them African-American and Latino. But it is ill-advised to pursue announced policies emanating from that corrective action, especially plans for secret trials of defendants in their early 20s. [More]
Other FOI and First Amendment News
            'Second Chance' Legislation, Secret Trials
            Teacher Evaluations, Public Records
            Patient Rights, Protesting
            Boston Herald Libel Case 
            massPublic Records Reform
    New Hampshire