SPJ Legal Defense Fund Roundup – July 2016
August 29, 2016
Paul Fletcher, SPJ National President, 804-873-1893, email@example.com
Rachel Semple, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-920-4785, firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS – As a free press and free speech advocate, SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund Committee initiates and joins amicus briefs to support First Amendment and open records cases.
The following are amicus briefs and other action the LDF Committee took in July:
SPJ urges release of deposition videos to public in former Secretary Clinton email case
In 2013 the advocacy group Judicial Watch Inc., sought State Department records related to Huma Abedin, the adviser to Hillary Clinton. In 2014 the case was dismissed, but was reopened in 2015 after reports of Clinton’s use of a private email account to conduct governmental business while Secretary of State.
Judicial Watch has taken depositions of various State Department employees in pursuit of information about the agency’s handling of FOIA requests that potentially implicated Clinton’s and Abedin’s emails. The judge has recently sealed these deposition videos from being released to the public.
SPJ and other organizations argue that these videos should be available to the public because they are relevant to high-ranking officials’ duties on a matter of public concern.
Read the full amicus brief here.
Idaho “ag-gag” statute’s restriction of speech is a violation of First Amendment
The Idaho “ag-gag” statute that criminalizes audio and video recording at agricultural facilities is written so broadly that it can be read to cover any type of “growing” or “planting” operation, even on public property. SPJ is supporting the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which seeks to expose abuses in agricultural operations, in its lawsuit arguing that the statute is unconstitutional under the First Amendment as a content-based restriction on speech.
In addition to the law’s effect on activists like the ALDF, it also interferes with investigative journalism and newsgathering about food safety. The public has a right to receive pertinent information about the treatment of animals, the environmental impact of the agriculture industry, and the safety of employees and the public food supply.
A federal trial court ruled in favor of the ALDF, and the case is now on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which SPJ and other organizations encourage to uphold the lower court’s finding that the statute violates the First Amendment.
Read the full amicus brief here.
SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. The First Amendment also guarantees the press and the public a right of access to criminal trials, including pretrial proceedings, and documents submitted in connection with them.
The LDF Committee also oversees the Legal Defense Fund, a unique account that can be used to provide journalists with legal or direct financial assistance.
SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.