Court: "Shoot the Nig" Rant Not a Criminal Threat to Obama

The majority of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit  ruled yesterday that anonymous postings by an online message board commentator in La Mesa predicting and encouraging the shooting of Barack Obama during his presidential candidacy do not qualify as the kind of true threats subject to prosecution, but instead were protected by the First Amendment, reports Clara Hogan for News Media Update.

Continue reading

Comment: Private Payroll Secrecy Good for Employers Only

A recent spate of court decisions confirm that the pay and retirement benefits of all California government workers, identified by name, are matters of sufficient public interest—as opposed to personal privacy—to be subject to mandatory disclosure on the public record. This principle does not extend to the private sector, but for the health of the economy and in the interests of the employees, maybe it should, writes Daniel Indiviglio in The Atlantic online.

Continue reading

Whistleblowers Don't Get a Pulitzer—and May Lose a Job

This is the way it’s supposed to work but so seldom does.  A government employee reveals corruption in his or her agency to a newspaper which then publishes an exposé which in turn leads to prosecutorial action for the miscreants and maybe even a Pulitzer Prize for the paper. But since there’s no award, prestigious or otherwise, for those who hand these tips to the press, it’s good to know that the story also prompts legislative reform, including enactment of greater protection for the first and indispensable link in the sequence of accountability moves: the vulnerable whistleblower.

Continue reading

Yee Names His Premier Sunshine Bill for Richard McKee

Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) yesterday amended his SB 8 on the Assembly Floor to title it as “The Richard McKee Transparency Act of 2011.”  The bill, his third legislative attempt to bring transparency to foundations and other “auxiliary organizations” at CSU, UC and community college campuses, is his leading open government measure this year.  Richard McKee, who died suddenly on April 23, was a co-founder and first president of Californians Aware, a non-lawyer whose efforts to bring sunshine to local government were unrivaled in their frequency and success. Continue reading

Examining the Dependency Court Transparency Debate

Guest contributor Sonya Ziaja, a lawyer who writes regularly for LegalMatch’s Law Blog and for her consultancy’s blog, Shark. Laser. Blawg, suggests that before reversing the presumption against public access to foster child proceedings in juvenile court to a presumption favoring such access — a prospect now embodied in pending legislation in California — we should ask whether journalists are using their current rights to attend such hearings to keep the public informed. Continue reading

Speaker's Arrest at Council Meeting Sparks Town Furor

Quartzsite, Arizona—near the California border— “was in disarray Monday after the town council ousted the mayor from power and declared a state of emergency, all over an online video that shows a woman being arrested,” reports Amanda Lee Myers for Associated Press. The mayor actually tried to defend her, and for his trouble suffered an attempted coup by the council majority.

Continue reading