Freedom of Information


COURT: JUDGES HAD RIGHT TO CRITICIZE OFFICIALS IN NEWSPAPER

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that two judges could not be suspended or fined for criticizing officials in the Las Cruces Sun-News, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported Jan. 31.

According to the RCFP, Las Cruces Municipal Court Judge James Locatelli had written a letter to the editor saying he and Judge Melissa Miller-Byrnes were "tired of seeing intoxicated drivers and other offenders go free because the prosecution is not doing its job," and Miller-Byrnes was quoted calling an assistant attorney "a smart ass, a smart aleck who has interfered with the administration of justice." The judges' attorney, Kip Purcell, told the RCFP that Miller-Byrnes thought her remarks were off the record.

"The questions posed by the court at oral argument made it clear that the judges were acutely aware of recent developments in First Amendment law," Purcell told the RCFP. "They understood that these comments and this letter to the editor appeared against a backdrop of First Amendment law that puts a thumb on the scales in favor of free speech."

The court did find that Miller-Byrnes violated rules requiring judges' impartiality and put an infraction on her record, the RCFP reported.

HAWAII LAWMAKERS PROPOSE COMMISSION TO OVERSEE OPEN RECORDS OFFICE

Responding to requests from County Council chairmen, the Hawaii Senate president and House speaker have introduced a bill to create a five-member commission overseeing the state Office of Information Practices, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported Jan. 28.

"This bill would strip the powers and duties that help citizens secure government records from a legal expert to a five-member (board) of volunteers appointed without any required expertise in an area of the law," Beverly Keever, a University of Hawaii at Manoa journalism professor, told the Star-Bulletin.

The OIP hears appeals and gives legal opinions on public records and open meetings issues, and it recently found that the Honolulu City Council had violated the law with secret one-on-one conversations before a vote.

Honolulu City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz told the Star-Bulletin, "I think everyone has noted that some of the opinions that OIP has published are extreme. It's just one individual that interprets the law versus a group of people, and there's no one to appeal to."

ACLU MAKES FOI REQUEST ON GOVERNMENT SPYING

The Northern California ACLU is filing a Freedom of Information request for all records on two anti-war student groups that ended up on a terrorist watch list, the Student Press Law Center reported Feb. …

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