Monthly Archives: December 2009

Likely Rules Open Up Some Court Admin Files

PUBLIC INFORMATION — The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) is recommending a set of rules that for the first time both provide and limit access to the "back office" administrative and business records of the state's courts and of the AOC headquarters itself—everything but civil and criminal case files, which are already presumed to be public. The California Judicial Council is set to adopt the rules at its meeting next Tuesday, with an effective date of January 1.  As previously conceded here, the fact of this general transparency initiative is highly praiseworthy—perhaps unique among court systems in the nation.  But some of the most potentially significant records will remain secret.

California's Most Courageous Newspaperman

FREE PRESS — Tim Crews, editor and publisher of a small community newspaper in Glenn County and a member of the board of directors of Californians Aware, was named the California Press Association's Newspaper Executive of the Year at an awards dinner at the Marines Memorial in San Francisco this past Friday.  Recipients are publishers, editors-in-chief or equivalents who have involved themselves in the directions of the editorial and news side of their newspapers by showing exceptional editorial achievement. In Crews' case, the award was for his journalism in creating and maintaining "California's most courageous newspaper."

White House Edict Puts Premium on Interpreters

OPEN GOVERNMENT — The White House this morning released a long-awaited Open Government Directive that follows up on the president's promise—memorialized on his first full day of office—to usher in a new era of transparent, participatory governance. says Peter M Shane, the Jacob E. Davis and Jacob E. Davis II Chair in Law at the Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law, writing in the Huffington Post.  But what's needed like never before among both old- and new-style journalists, he says, are technically adept translators of exposed data into facts that tell news stories.

Is Academic Freedom a First Amendment Right?

FREE SPEECH — As federal courts read the First Amendment, public college and university teachers have no free speech right to talk about gay issues in the classroom and can be let go for such behavior—in Mississippi, that is.  But not in California, where the contrary is the case. Should the interpretation given to a bedrock item in the Bill of Rights depend on whether a federal court sits in a red or a blue state? New York Law School Professor Arthur S. Leonard says the U.S. Supreme Court's pointed avoidance of addressing whether academic freedom is a First Amendment right for public higher education faculty has left some serious confusion.

Book: T. Roosevelt Quietly OKd Japan's Expansion

OPEN GOVERNMENT — "Sixty-eight years ago tomorrow, Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor," writes historian James Bradley in yesterday's New York Times. "In the brutal Pacific war that would follow, millions of soldiers and civilians were killed. My father — one of the famous flag raisers on Iwo Jima — was among the young men who went off to the Pacific to fight for his country. So the war naturally fascinated me. But I always wondered, why did we fight in the Pacific? Yes, there was Pearl Harbor, but why did the Japanese attack us in the first place?

Update: College's Hardline Speech/Assembly Bans

FREE SPEECH/FREE ASSEMBLY — In an update on the South West College (SWC) crackdown on faculty support for student budget cut protesters, Peter Bonilla notes that a key target for reform is the policy that treats all but a small patch of the campus as a speech-free zone.

Is Federal Transparency a 1st Amendment Right?

OPEN GOVERNMENT — In California, five years ago the state constitution was amended by popular vote to make public access to government proceedings and records a right as fundamental as speech. But what about the federal constitution?  Does an open government right flow from the First Amendment?

No Such Thing As a (Government) Free Press

FREE PRESS — "The myth is that the commercial press in this country stands wholly independent of governmental sustenance," say media scholars Geoffrey Cowan and David Westphal, writing in the Online Journalism Review. "Here's the jolt: There's never been a time in U.S. history when government dollars weren't propping up the news business. This year, federal, state and local governments will spend well over $1 billion to support commercial news publishers through tax breaks, postal subsidies and the printing of public notices. And the amount used to be much higher."

CalAware's McKee Gets Inyo Board to Drop Panel

OPEN MEETINGS — A Brown Act demand for correction from Richard McKee, president emeritus of Californians Aware, prompted the Inyo County Board of Supervisors to fold a controversial committee dealing with access to Klondike Lake rather than open it up to public attendance, reports Benett Kessler for Sierra Wave.

Support Brief Filed in Oakland Bubble Zone Case

FREE SPEECH — The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reports that it has filed an amicus curiae brief calling on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to declare unconstitutional a speech-free "bubble zone" ordinance used by the City of Oakland to censor anti-abortion appeals on public sidewalks—and that got a clergyman arrested for peaceably offering leaflets.