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FIRST AMENDMENT
OF U.S. CONSTITUTION 
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.

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2016 MAJOR SUPPORTERS 



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LEARN ABOUT OUR ANNUAL NEW ENGLAND FIRST AMENDMENT INSTITUTE







NEFAC'S ANNUAL 
NEW ENGLAND FIRST AMENDMENT AWARDS








SUNSHINE WEEK 2016









FILE FREE FOI REQUEST


Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, agrees with Snapchat. . . . The reason it's important to legalize voting booth photography surpasses the right to selfie, Silverman argues. 

The New England First Amendment Coalition has filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief laying out the case against the selfie ban. Filed in conjunction with the Keene Sentinel and prepared by the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School, it is a humdinger. . . . "Political speech is a 'core' concern of the First Amendment," the amici write, "and protection of speech is never stronger than when the speaker is addressing political or governmental issues.

Those opposed to photography bans say concerns about vote-buying are overblown. "There isn't much evidence, if any at all, that this kind of activity is actually occurring," said Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. . . . Mr. Silverman said the image of a goofy selfie with a ballot has obscured what he described as more serious benefits of allowing photography, like serving as an alert system for confusing ballots. "More importantly, it's about keeping the system honest, and documenting the election process and quickly identifying flaws that might be on the ballot and being able to share them quickly and easily with other voters," he said.

Tough Week for Open Records in Rhode Island | Providence Journal 4.16.16
"This decision is a blow to transparency in Rhode Island," the New England First Amendment Coalition's Justin Silverman said. "It put a burden on the public to show evidence of government wrongdoing before it can obtain the records that may show that wrongdoing. This type of reasoning will have Rhode Island watchdogs chasing their tails."

And there's the rub, says William Chapman, a Concord attorney and board member of the New England First Amendment Coalition. He said the privacy exemption is too broad. He'd like to add these words: "unless a court orders the recording or portion to be disclosed." . . . "There might well be situations that constitute an invasion of privacy but are central to knowing whether law enforcement acted properly," Chapman said in an email. "My concern is that without the amendment I proposed, asserting invasion of privacy will carry the day," he said. "Law enforcement will assert it if the private individual doesn't."

The New England First Amendment Coalition took a counter view. "This ruling flips APRA on its head," executive director Justin Silverman said. "It puts the burden on journalists to show government wrongdoing before they can access the documents needed to look for that wrongdoing. ... Rhode Island residents need to know that their law enforcement is working with integrity and without preference to elected officials or their children. This decision denies the public that opportunity."

"It is an interesting First Amendment set of issues," said Gregory V. Sullivan, a law professor in Boston and the legal counsel for the New England First Amendment Coalition. "And I do think the guy's art work is protected by the First Amendment." . . . "I would say what you're looking at here is some political artwork that is protected by the First Amendment," Sullivan said. "And that is not obscene. What's obvious right away to me is what we're looking at is political satire."

"I would say what you're looking at here is some political artwork that is protected by the First Amendment," Gregory V. Sullivan, a law professor in Boston and the legal counsel for the New England First Amendment Coalition told NH1. "And that is not obscene. What's obvious right away to me is what we're looking at is political satire."

"I would say what you're looking at here is some political artwork that is protected by the First Amendment," said Gregory V. Sullivan, a law professor in Boston and the legal counsel for the New England First Amendment Coalition. "And that is not obscene. What's obvious right away to me is what we're looking at is political satire."

"The speech at issue here is abhorrent, but that doesn't mean it should be criminal," said Justin Silverman, head of the New England First Amendment Coalition. "When we punish a speaker based on the actions of an audience, we risk silencing other voices that should be heard." When family members of a terminally ill patient discuss suicide, Silverman asks, is that conversation illegal if the loved one takes their own life? Expanding criminal liability too far for one awful case could have dire and unintended consequences for others.

Obama's Words on the Press Ring Hollow | Providence Journal 4.2.16
"The president is right that journalists need to dig deeper, ask tough questions and provide a broader context," New England First Amendment Coalition executive director Justin Silverman said. "The problem is that his administration makes it difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish those goals." He noted that NEFAC gave its 2014 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award to The New York Times' James Risen, a former Providence Journal writer who faced the prospect of prison for refusing to reveal a source, and Obama prosecuted more leak-related cases than all previous administrations combined. Can it get worse? Well, Donald Trump talks of changing libel law to make it easier to sue the press. "To have a presidential candidate even saying those things makes any First Amendment proponent concerned," Silverman said.
 
We welcome contributions 
to the NEFAC Report from journalists, lawyers, academics 
or other advocates of 
government transparency. If 
you have something to add 
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us know. Your stories, experiences and commentaries have broad appeal and value. Please email submissions to [email protected]



 



 NEFAC REPORT | April 2016
New England First Amendment Institute
NEFAI 2016 Fellowship Applications Available; Deadline August 31
Application Materials

Applications are now available for fellowships to the 2016 New England First Amendment Institute. This sixth annual institute will be held from Oct. 16-18 in Dedham, Mass. 
The New England First Amendment Coalition provides the three-day investigative journalism workshop each year to 25 journalists working within the region. The institute is provided to these journalism fellows at no cost and features many of the country's elite investigative reporters, editors and media attorneys. "Our coalition has trained more than 120 New England journalists since we began offering this free institute," said Justin Silverman, executive director of NEFAC. "We are excited to accept another class of fellows this year as part of our continuing effort to strengthen newsrooms throughout the region." [More]

NEFAC News
NEFAC Files Amicus in New Hampshire 'Ballot Selfie' Case, Defends Right to Know 
Read Brief
The New England First Amendment Coalition recently filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit arguing that a New Hampshire law prohibiting "ballot selfies" is an unconstitutional restriction on political speech and could impede the public's ability to monitor its government. 
"Political speech is a 'core' concern of the First Amendment and protection of speech is never stronger than when the speaker is addressing political or government issues," NEFAC argued in the brief, adding that the ability "to take photos that capture newsworthy events and engage in public discussion about ballots and elections is increasingly important today as traditional media faces tighter resource constraints and citizens increasingly turn to social media as a source of information and discussion." [More]
R.I. Court Deals Blow Against Public

NEFAC board members Karen Bordeleau and Tim White, and Justin Silverman, the coalition's executive director, wrote an op/ed that recently appeared in The Providence Journal. 

A recent Rhode Island Supreme Court ruling will have government watchdogs scratching their heads and chasing their tails. In a state infamous for crooked politics and government mistrust, the court found that individual privacy outweighed the public's interest in monitoring politicians, an interest the court called "negligible," "tenuous" and "insufficient." Worse, the court put a burden on the public to show evidence of government wrongdoing before it could obtain documents that may show that wrongdoing. [More]
NEFAC, Media Continue to Argue for Immediate Access to Civil Court Documents
The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined 12 other open government and media organizations in the filing of an amicus brief supporting the need for same-day access to civil court documents. The case, Courthouse News Service v. Planet, is pending in the U.S. District Court of California. It involves a state Superior Court practice of withholding civil complaints until court officials can process the documents, which often takes several days or longer. [More]

Blog
Recap: NEFAC's Panel Discussion on 
Conn. FOI Law, Police Body Cameras
Watch Program
The New England First Amendment Coalition recently hosted a panel discussion on Connecticut's public records law and the use of body cameras by law enforcement.
Titled "Caught on Camera: The FOI Fallout from Police Cameras," the April 8 discussion was part of the Making 
View Program Materials
CONNections journalism conference at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Conn. The panel focused on a Connecticut law that requires state police departments to equip officers with cameras and restricts when officers can record and release the camera footage. [More]
There's No Judicial Recourse for 
'Crooked Hillary' and 'Lyin' Ted'
In the midst of a presidential campaign season that is notable for its uncivil discourse, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last month issued a ruling confirming what we already knew: that "crooked Hillary" and "lyin' Ted" don't have a legal claim against Donald Trump for name-calling. No, Clinton and Cruz did not take time from their campaigns to file defamation claims against Donald Trump. The SJC's ruling arose out of a nasty dispute between a Chelmsford planning board member, and a local businessman and political gadfly who allegedly called her uneducated, stupid, corrupt, and a liar - the sort of language that has become standard fare for the 2016 presidential race. [More]

Other FOI and First Amendment News
National

            White House, Press Policies
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Connecticut
    
            Teacher Evaluations, Public Records
            UConn Foundation, Transparency
________________________________________________
Maine

            Governor, Open Meeting Law
Massachusetts

            Encouraging Suicide vs. Free Speech
            PETA Public Records Lawsuit
            Pittsfield Police, Missing Records
            T Pension Fund, Transparency
________________________________________________
New Hampshire

            Yeti Display, Political Speech
            Public Records, Digital Files
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Rhode Island

            Ragosta Report
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Vermont

            Governor Emails, Public Records
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