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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.


2017 MAJOR 


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Local Police See Varying Levels of Information Access | The Enterprise 6.25.17  Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said the trend should be toward more openness, not less, among government organizations like school districts and inspection services, and that's even more important for police departments in situations involving public safety. "There's a presumption of openness in this state, and any time a police department can inform the community and provides more information about something, that's a good thing," said Silverman. "Police departments that are providing more info than what's required, kudos to them and they should be recognized and serve as a model to other departments that are more tight-lipped."

Experts: West Bridgewater Police Erred in Handling of Police Report | The Enterprise 6.25.17 "We have the right to know who's accused of crimes in our communities and whether police are acting appropriately," said Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. "When a major car accident occurs on a public street and the driver is accused of fleeing the scene, we need to know who was involved and how law enforcement responded. This is the type of oversight our public records law provides. Without basic information like the names of those involved in the crash, it's impossible to fully understand what happened and why."

A Fight of Supreme Importance | Caledonian Record 6.7.17 "All Vermonters who want to get to the information would need evidence and you can imagine just how difficult that would be," said VTDigger attorney Tim Cornell. The New England First Amendment Coalition and the Vermont Press Association joined the VTDigger in the fight.

Attorney General Weighs in on Public Records Case | VTDigger 5.19.17  "We welcome the attorney general's position that private email and text messaging accounts can be searched under the Public Records Act," said attorney Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. Silverman said it is still concerning that the attorney general is questioning how such searches can occur, the answer to which could have serious consequences for the public's right to know. . . . Silverman said that reasoning places a burden on the party requesting records that isn't contemplated by the Public Records Act, and which could be used to deny access to records that would be public were they not located on private accounts. "If a request needs to meet a certain standard before private accounts can be searched, the requester certainly shouldn't be required to put the cart before the horse and first provide proof the records exist," he said.

Judge Denies Release of 38 Studios Secret Grand Jury Records | WJAR-Providence 5.19.17  Access RI, the American Civil Liberties Union, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and the New England First Amendment Coalition wanted the details related to the probe released saying there is "extraordinarily strong public interest" in the grand jury process. And now they are disappointed, said Justin Silverman with the New England First Amendment Coalition. "The decision is incredibly disappointing and a blow to the public's right to know in Rhode Island." Silverman said. "We had hoped for more transparency about 38 Studios but instead we're just facing more secrecy, more of the same."

VTDigger is filing the amicus brief in an appeal to the Supreme Court of Vermont. Other news outlets and transparency groups have signed on, including the New England First Amendment Coalition, the Caledonian Record, Seven Days and the Vermont Press Association.

Vermont Ends Delay on Public Release of Lawsuit Documents  | VTDigger 4.25.17  The  New England First Amendment Coalition celebrated the state's order in a news release Tuesday. "This is a win for open government. Vermonters have a right to know about lawsuits filed in their courts and to have timely access to those documents," said the group's executive director, Justin Silverman.

NEFAC Applauds Vermont Decision to Make Lawsuit Filings Immediately Available | Caledonian Record 4.25.17 "The old provision of secret files, even when there had been a hearing, is just one of several outdated policies," said Michael Donoghue, NEFAC's vice president and a former Burlington Free Press staff writer. "Our coalition urged the Vermont Attorney General's Office not to waste tax dollars trying to defend this policy when Vermont was the only state doing it this way."

NH 'Ballot Selfies' Remain Legal as U.S. Supreme Court Declines Review | ACLU 4.3.17 In this case, Snapchat, Inc., the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the New England First Amendment Coalition, and the Keene Sentinel all filed amicus briefs in support of the ACLU-NH's position that this ban is unconstitutional.

NEFAC's Justin Silverman Discussing First Amendment, Journalism (audio) | WPRO 3.25.17

Celebrating Your Right to Know at Nashua Gathering | InDepthNH 3.17.17 The right-to-know evening at the Hunt Memorial Building was co-sponsored by The Telegraph of Nashua, and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Local Lawyer Leads New England First Amendment Coalition | Community Advocate 3.13.17 Silverman joined the NEFAC board in 2010, and became its executive director in 2014. "NEFAC is an advocate for the First Amendment and the public's right to know. We seek to educate everyone - journalists and non-journalists alike - about their rights under the First Amendment. Much of our work is for the benefit of journalists because they are often the ones using freedom of information laws to obtain records and educate communities. But we provide resources to everyone. We're most concerned about threats to the press, free speech and the public's right to know."

We welcome contributions 
to the NEFAC Report from journalists, lawyers, academics 
or other advocates of 
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 NEFAC REPORT | June 2017  
Regional/National    CT     MA     ME     NH     RI     VT 

It's the Last Day and We're So Close . . .

We need to raise $4,250 by the end of today when our spring fundraiser concludes.  Your help has been crucial to this campaign and we're grateful to all those supporters who have made contributions and told others about our work on behalf of the First Amendment.  
Please help us cross the finish line by making a donation today and encouraging others to do so as well. On behalf of everyone at NEFAC, thank you for your support and generosity.



The court in Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital (SJC-12141) announced a new standard for deciding whether an action should be dismissed under the anti-SLAPP statute. In a June 7 letter to the court on behalf of NEFAC, Jeffrey Pyle of Prince Lobel Tye LLP explained that the court did so "without the benefit of briefing - either by parties or amici curiae - about the benefits, drawbacks and potential unintended consequences of the new standard."  [...]

            Additional Coverage


The New England First Amendment Coalition is pleased 
to  announce two law school fellows who  will be helping 

the organization throughout the summer. Zachary Carlton  and Tatiana Tway are both rising second-year students at New England Law | Boston.  "We're very happy to have Tatiana and   Zak working with our coalition," said  Justin Silverman, NEFAC's executive director. "They are both talented students who have a lot to offer NEFAC. We're looking forward to a very productive summer." [...]


Will President Trump's tough stance on journalists and access to information be repudiated or emulated by state and local officials? That's a question some open government advocates in New England are now asking. This hostility to the Fourth Estate and the public's right to know has advocates concerned. They warn that attempts to strictly control the flow of information have the potential to cause a trickle-down effect for members of the public seeking government data, or even embolden those in state and municipal agencies to take a more restrictive stance toward material that, by law, should be freely available. [...]

All who deal with records held by government entities and employees know the basic rule: In Massachusetts, the public records law states that all records are presumed public unless a specific legal exemption applies. The problem is, the list of exemptions has grown steadily over time, often making it seem as though the exceptions have swallowed the rule.  In a victory for public records advocates, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an important ruling limiting the scope of one of the more troubling exemptions.  [...]

In May, Vermont became the 11th state to pass a student press-freedom law. In early June, Nevada became the 12th state to enact such a law. And now, as the General Assembly nears the end of this year's legislative session, Rhode Island has the chance to become the 13th state to pass a law protecting the rights of student journalists. Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, "Student journalism is perhaps the greatest civics lesson we can teach in our schools. By allowing students to write about what's important to them, we are sending the message that what they say matters and needs to be heard."  [...]

Other FOI and First Amendment News
            Executive Office, Leakers
            Offensive Speech, Trademarks

            Libel Tourism Legislation
            Freedom of Information, Privacy

           38 Studios, Government Transparency
            Climate Research, APRA


            Private Email Accounts
            Student Journalism, 'New Voices' Legislation