Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sunshine Week: Now open for business

Three announcements today about this year's Sunshine Week, the national initiative to encourage open government.

First, the date is set for March 11-17.

Second, six leading journalists have signed on to serve as regional coordinators:
  • New England (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT): Thomas E. Heslin, managing editor for new media, The Providence (RI) Journal.
  • Mid-Atlantic (DE, MD, DC, NJ, NY, PA): Tim Franklin, editor and senior vice president, The Baltimore (MD) Sun.
  • South (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA, WV): Mark Tomasik, editor, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, Stuart, FL.
  • Midwest (IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, OH, WS): Tom O’Hara, managing editor, Cleveland Plain Dealer.
  • West (CO, ID, MT, NM, ND, OK, SD, TX, UT, WY): Fred Zipp, managing editor, Austin (TX) American-Statesman.
  • Far West (AK, AZ, CA, HI, NV, OR, WA): Maureen West, senior editor, Arizona Republic, Phoenix.
Third, merchandise bearing the Sunshine Week logo can now be purchased at the Cafe Press Sunshine Week store. Buy shirts, hats, mugs, bags and more, with all proceeds going to support Sunshine Week programs.

Today's announcement is here. Sunshine Week is led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and supported by a number of media organizations.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Injunction blocks online columnist

The new owner of a small Marin County, Calif., newspaper has won a preliminary injunction blocking the paper's Pulitzer-prize-winning former publisher from writing a column for a Web site that covers news in neighboring Sonoma County, according to a report in the Marin Independent Journal.

Robert Plotkin, who bought the 4,000-circulation Point Reyes Light in November, obtained the injunction blocking Dave Mitchell from posting his column on the site of the Bodega Bay Navigator. Plotkin, a lawyer who formerly worked as a Monterey County prosecutor, claimed that Mitchell's column violated his non-competition agreement. But Mitchell says the ban is an unconstitutional violation of his free speech and that his agreement barred him only from writing for another newspaper within Marin County. The IJ report says that Plotkin and Mitchell have been feuding since a falling-out in February over a news story.

Friday, August 25, 2006

NY man arrested for broadcasting Hizbollah TV is reporting:
"U.S. authorities have arrested a New York man for broadcasting Hizbollah television station al-Manar, which has been designated a terrorist entity by the U.S. Treasury Department, prosecutors said on Thursday.

"Javed Iqbal, 42, was arrested on Wednesday because his Brooklyn-based company HDTV Ltd. was providing New York-area customers with the Hizbollah-operated channel, federal prosecutors said in a statement."

First Amendment 'podcasts'

The First Amendment Center has introduced a series of podcasts covering First Amendment topics. Recordings include interviews, panel discussions and remarks by journalists, educators and others speaking about the First Amendment, a free press and freedom of information.

(Note to First Amendment Center: Without an RSS feed or subscription mechanism, these really are not "podcasts.")

Monday, August 21, 2006

Podcast: Asia as lawyers' new frontier

Is Asia the next frontier for U.S. lawyers? On this week's legal-affairs podcast Coast to Coast, my cohost J. Craig Williams and I discuss doing business in Asia with two lawyers who have first-hand experience:
Listen to or download this week's program here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Supreme Court asked to open TSA directive

SCOTUSblog reports on a petition to the Supreme Court asking it to require the Transportation Security Agency to make public the directive it follows to screen airline passengers. Filed on behalf of plaintiff John Gilmore, the case strikes me as unique for its reliance on due process as a grounds for opening government information. Gilmore filed suit after he was asked to show ID while boarding a domestic flight. TSA refused to provide him with the directive under which it screens passengers, even though it acknowledges the directive's existence and contents. Gilmore's petition claims that it is a violation of due process to impose a legal requirement on an individual and acknowledge the source of the requirement, but withhold its disclosure.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

1st Circuit vacates $1M libel verdict

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated a $1 million award to a former Maryland assistant state's attorney who claimed he was libeled by The Boston Phoenix newspaper. In Mandel v. The Boston Phoenix, the ciruit court held that the trial court had insufficient evidence when it ruled before trial that the plaintiff was not a public figure.
"We ... vacate the judgment due to the court's premature pretrial decision on the linchpin public-official issue. Summary judgment is proper only when it is appropriately timed — and, given the lack of factual development in the summary judgment record, the timing here was inauspicious."
The 1st Circuit sent the case back to the district court for a new trial.

The case grew out of a 2003 Phoenix report on child-custody disputes involving accusations of child abuse. It included a report on a Maryland custody battle in which Mandel's former wife accused him of being a child molester. On summary judgment, the district court ruled that Mandel was not a public figure. The case went to trial and the jury awarded Mandel $950,000.

[Thanks to How Appealing for the pointer.]