Access Issues across Nation
Many thanks to Benjamin Bedrick of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for putting together most of this information with help from state press and open government associations, media lawyers and journalism professors. Another thank you to the SPJ Sunshine Chairs; the Student Press Law Center and Security on Campus for their contributions. This roundup notes activity from July 1997 to July 1998.
For more information, see these Web sites: Reporters Committee at rcfp.org Student Press Law Center at splc.org Security on Campus at soconline.org SPJ at spj.org
Supreme Court ruling
The state Supreme Court in early August let stand a lower court ruling that upheld a closed meeting of a city council public safety committee. The lower court judge dismissed a challenge to the closed meeting, saying committees of the city council are not covered by the open meetings law. Under the state's judicial rules, the Supreme Court action, which was done without a written opinion, doesn't become a precedent other courts have to follow.
A bill sets confidentiality standards for the home address and other personally identifying information of police officers. Under the law, the information must be disclosed unless officers demonstrate to a judge that sealing their records will reduce the risk of danger to them. (S.B. 1166)
The state Supreme Court ruled in March that Maricopa County school districts properly withheld the birth dates of full-time and substitute teachers from a television station that was investigating whether any convicted criminals were employed as teachers. The teachers have a privacy interest in their birth dates that outweighs the public interest in disclosure, even though the same information is available from other public sources, the court said. (Scottsdale Unified School District v. KPNX Broadcasting Co.)
Contracts between state agencies and any other entities are public records under the state FOI Act (H.B. 1195). Certain oil and gas records provided voluntarily to the county assessor are exempt from disclosure under a new law. (S.B. 485)
Complaints against peace officers that are determined to be unfounded or from which the officers are exonerated shall not be retained in personnel files. However, findings relating to the complaints will be retained in other files that will be deemed personnel files for purposes of the state Public Records Act. (A.B. 1016)
Individuals appointed or elected to serve as a member of a state body who have not yet assumed the duties of office are required to conduct themselves in compliance with the BagleyKeene Open Meetings Act as if they have already assumed office. (S.B. 95)
The Brown Act does not apply to the attendance of a majority of the members of a legislative body at an open and noticed meeting of the legislative body of another local agency. The Brown Act is California's open meetings act governing "local agencies." (S.B. 138)
Law enforcement agencies are authorized to release to the public descriptive information about a minor, including his or her name, if there is an outstanding warrant for the arrest of that minor for a violent offense. (S.B. 388)
Unless a court issues an order to the contrary, a copy of the transcript, videotape, or other recording of deposition testimony, if still in the possession of the deposition officer, shall be made available to any person requesting a copy upon payment of a reasonable charge set by the deposition officer. (S.B. 544)
The Public Utilities Commission is permitted to conduct closed sessions to deliberate on the institution of proceedings or disciplinary actions against any person or entity under the jurisdiction of the commission. (S.B. 2008)
The public will be allowed access to background information and evidence used by grand juries in civil investigations. …