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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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SUNSHINE WEEK 2016









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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


According to the Massachusetts Freedom of Information Alliance, a coalition of open government groups Common Cause, ACLU of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association and New England First Amendment Coalition, the following changes would come to the field of open records with the governor's signature . . .

Massachusetts Bans Photos in the Voting Booth | Mass Live 5.3.16 "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," said NEFAC, a nonprofit based in Westborough.

Snapchat Wants to Make Your Voting Selfies Legal | Cosmopolitan 4.27.16 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. 

Why New Hampshire's Ban On Ballot Selfies Is A Threat To Freedom Of Expression | WGBH 4.26.16 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."

Body Camera Debate: Privacy vs. Transparency | Union Leader 4.16.16 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."

R.I. Supreme Court Denies Journal Access to Chafee Police Records | Providence Journal 4.11.16 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."

Freedom of Speech Issue Exposed in Andover, Thanks to a Yeti | Concord Monitor 4.10.16 "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."

Woman Steals Intimate Part of Bigfoot Silhouette | Fox 25 4.10.16 "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."

No Joke: A Yeti and His Penis Take on the First Amendment | NH1 4.9.16 "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."
 
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. Please email submissions to [email protected]



 



 NEFAC REPORT | May 2016
Spring Fundraiser
NEFAC Releases 2015 Annual Review: Help Us Continue to Defend the First Amendment
Public access has a face. It's the face of ordinary citizens trying to understand their government in order to make an informed decision or to expose a wrong. Boston resident Michael A. Champa shared these words in February after receiving NEFAC's 2016 Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award. Champa recently prevailed in a public records case that he fought all the way up to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. That fight for information, he said, is "a discovery process, often dearly earned and grounded in a basic American right to unfettered access to their government." Across New England, that right is challenged every day. But with your help, NEFAC is defending the public's right to know and advocating for the First Amendment freedoms of every New Englander. [More]

New England First Amendment Institute
NEFAI 2016 Fellowship Applications Available; Deadline August 31

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
Maine SJC Rules in Favor of Access to 
Gov't Records; NEFAC Filed Amicus Brief 
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that government records exempt from disclosure under the state's Freedom of Access Act are not automatically exempt from disclosure during litigation. The decision, arising from a case involving an appraisal report in an eminent domain proceeding, will help prevent government records from being kept secret during judicial proceedings. The New England First Amendment Coalition and the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition filed an amicus brief in the case on Feb. 16, expressing concern that judges and juries could be deprived of government records without a compelling reason. NEFAC's Sigmund Schutz, an attorney at Preti Flaherty in Portland and a member of MFOIC, drafted the brief. [More]
NEFAC Continues to Suggest Improvements to Mass. Trial Court Public Record Rules 
The New England First Amendment 
Coalition recently called for increased access to Massachusetts trial court documents, submitting comments to a state committee tasked with writing new rules on where and how electronic copies of judicial records can be obtained. The comments - in a letter sent on May 4 to the Trial Court Public Access to Court Records Committee by attorney Jeffrey Pyle of Prince Lobel Tye on behalf of NEFAC, the New England Newspaper and Press Association and Courthouse News Service - are intended to clarify and improve the work of the committee, which has spent more than a year drafting the proposed rules. This is the third letter sent on behalf of NEFAC regarding the new rules, the first two on March 31 and May 1, 2015. The coalition also provided testimony on the rules at a public hearing last year. [More]
Blog
Keeping it All Secret in Connecticut
What is it now that we can't find out in the land of the free, in this cradle of democracy we call Connecticut?
Too much stays secret. Our collective memory of Ella Grasso is fading. In a state college classroom recently, not one student knew who she was. You may remember she was the first woman in America elected governor of her state in her own right. She convinced a unanimous legislature - unanimous - of the value to democracy in having state freedom of information laws and of setting up the nation's first FOI Commission.
But it's not going so well these days. Government officials everywhere are keeping the public's work secret, from the fundraising foundation for the state's flagship university, to the state-owned airport, to historical records, to the very FOI Commission founded by Mrs. Grasso in 1975. [More]

A Threat to Vermont Transparency
The Vermont legislature is about to finalize how long government boards have to post drafts of meeting minutes on their websites. For about 40 years, the law has required that such drafts be available to the public within five calendar days. Last year, the legislature adopted without any objections the same standard for posting them on their respective websites. Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill. But as the law was going into effect, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns started to urge communities to shut down their municipal websites if they could not comply. Instead of offering training for municipalities they believed couldn't comply, the League advised them to shut the sites down in defiance of the new law. [More]

Other FOI and First Amendment News
National
Connecticut
    
            Reporter Access, Political Coverage
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Maine

            Protest, Speech Restrictions
            Maine Warden Service, Public Records
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Massachusetts

            Public Records Reform
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New Hampshire

            Free Speech, Alton Civil Rights Suit
            Right to Record
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