New England First Amendment Coalition
May 2021
The courses will be moderated by Emily Sweeney, a reporter at The Boston Globe and a board member of both NEFAC and SPJNE.

“Public record laws are a valuable tool to help citizens learn about and engage with their government,” Sweeney said. “But they vary greatly from state to state. This series of presentations will help everyone better understand the laws in New England.” [...]
Registration For All Classes Now Open
June 2 | Connecticut

June 9 | New Hampshire

June 16 | Maine
June 23 | Massachusetts

June 30 | Vermont


July 14 | Rhode Island

July 21 | Federal FOIA
NEFAC, along with several media organizations, is suing court officials over delays in public access to judicial documents.

“The First Amendment provides the press and public with a presumptive right of access to newly filed civil complaints, and where the right of access applies, it must be contemporaneous,” according to the lawsuit filed on May 20.

The case is Courthouse News Service v. Gabel and will be heard by the U.S. District Court in Vermont. [...]
Attorney Robert Hemley at Gravel & Shea in Burlington discusses the recent lawsuit in Vermont to force state officials to provide immediate access to court filings. NEFAC and several media organizations are plaintiffs.

While there are encouraging signs that COVID-19 in New England is becoming less severe, telling stories using data will continue to be an important skill for journalists covering any beat. By viewing this lesson, you will learn:
• How to find and obtain reliable health data.
• How to create simple data visualizations using free online tools.
• How to identify story ideas based on vaccination data.

MAINE
While the state is not obligated to provide a vanity plate program, once it opens a forum to citizen speech it should not discriminate against constitutionally-protected expression even if vulgar or otherwise offensive, NEFAC explained in a May 17 letter to the Maine Attorney General.

“We believe that at least some of the restrictions on speech imposed by LD 130 are unconstitutionally broad and vague,” wrote Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. [...]

Additional Coverage

STUDENT SPEECH
Attorney Mike Hiestand of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C., discusses the “fuck cheer” case — Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. — and its possible implications on the rights of students outside the schoolhouse gates.


Additional Coverage

The New England First Amendment Coalition recently opposed legislation that would make secret the towns and cities of residence for Rhode Island police officers.

“At a time when citizens throughout the state — and country — are demanding more transparency and accountability within police departments, this legislation will needlessly keep citizens uninformed about the officers patrolling their streets,” wrote NEFAC and the Rhode Island Press Association in a letter to the state Senate Judiciary Committee. [...]
This is a matter of accountability,” explained NEFAC’s Michael Donoghue at a May 6 hearing of the Vermont Sentate Institutions Committee on behalf of the coalition and the Vermont Press Association. “Only with in-person hearings can the public’s voice be fully heard. Despite the benefits of technology, remote access software allows public officials to more easily limit citizen speech and avoid contentious issues.” [...]

Additional Coverage

The New England First Amendment Coalition recently wrote to New Hampshire state senators about a bill that would restrict access to police mugshots, calling the proposal “a dangerous and unjustified infringement” upon the public’s right to know and the ability of journalists to report the news. HB 125 classifies police mugshots as investigatory records and exempts them from release under the New Hampshire Right to Know Law. [...]

Additional Coverage

Barbara Roessner, a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors and the founding editor of the New Bedford Light, discusses the need for more local journalism and how those in other communities can form their own non-profit news organizations.

The New England First Amendment Coalition is pleased to announce two law school fellows who will be helping the organization throughout the summer. Jon Cubetus and Clayton Spivey are both rising second-year students at Boston College Law School.

“We’re very excited to have Clay and Jon joining our team,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “They are both exceptional law students who have a lot to offer our coalition.” [...]
The New England First Amendment Coalition called on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to consider the rights of journalists while investigating police treatment of citizens during recent protests in Louisville and Minneapolis.

“This is an opportunity for the attorney general to protect the free press and to remind police departments throughout the country that journalists must be allowed to do their job,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. [...]
MORE NEFAC COMMENTARY
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said, “Secret meetings among state officials do little to reassure the public. Only through a transparent process can Rhode Islanders fully trust that those communities hit hardest during the pandemic will get the help they need.” [...]
The executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition said the state must respect constitutionally protected speech if it chooses to offer vanity plates.

“When the state starts limiting speech based on what it considers offensive, we should immediately put our First Amendment guard up,” Justin Silverman said. “Our constitution is wary of government deciding for the people what is and is not acceptable expression. Maine is not obligated to offer vanity license plates. But if it chooses to do so, it must respect constitutionally protected speech . . .” [...]
“Any proposal or any plan that’s being considered that shuts out the public entirely I think is a plan that should be abandoned and rethought,” said Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, an organization that advocates for government transparency and media organizations. [...]
Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, said the issue is not just important for journalists, but the public at large as well. “This is a concern for everyone in Vermont to make sure they are aware of what is happening in their courts,” he said. “It really is a universal issue for all Vermonters.”

He said that Massachusetts, which is not known for providing great access to public records, does provide judicial records filed in court on the same day as they are submitted. “We’ve seen this done in many other states,” Silverman added. [...]
MORE FOI & FIRST AMENDMENT NEWS


Regional / National

Journalist Phone Records


Body Camera Footage


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Connecticut

Hate Speech


Vaccines, Religious Exemptions


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Maine




Massachusetts



New Hampshire

Police Records, 'Laurie List'


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Rhode Island



Vermont

Criminal Records of Minors


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MAJOR SUPPORTERS