Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Monday, January 30, 2006
Proposed Changes To Open Government Laws In Massachusetts
The General Court not only needs to strengthen the open government laws in Massachusetts, it also needs to be more open itself. For example, it is possible to track pending legislation in Virginia online. Anyone should be able to do that for legislation in Massachusetts as well, particularly since we like to think of ourselves as a high tech center. If an outsider were to use our legislature's use of the internet as a guide, they might get the sense that the technology revolution has passed us by.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Why Post Public Records Online.
Given these findings, posting public records on line in New England (specifically Massachusetts) makes sense. It is an effective way for governments to communicate with the public because a lot of people in New England have access to the Internet and use it to find information. In addition, it can have a positive effect on how people feel about their interactions with their government.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Miscellaneous Friday Musings
Check out two blogs by Robert Ambrogi, who is a Massachusetts media lawyer and the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association. His blog, Media Law, touches on a lot of open government issues and his blog, Robert Ambrogi's Lawsites, tracks websites for and by the legal profession.
Also check out the website for the Coalition of Journalists For Open Government. The organization's primary goal is to protect and increase the public's access to government meetings and records. It's primary focus is on the federal government.
In the coming weeks, I plan to compare the Massachusetts open government laws with those is other states to see where we stand in comparison. For now, however, you can go to the website for the Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project for a rating of Massachusetts laws.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Harvard Case Decided
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Quote For The Day
Justice Frankfurter, concurring decision, Youngstown Sheet &Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 594 (1952).
Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co., also known as the Steel Seizure case, is about the limitations of the power of the President. The over fifty years old decision has been in the news lately. It has been cited in discussions about President Bush's warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens. In addition, Justice Jackson's concurring opinion to the decision has been discussed during Judge Alito's confirmation hearing.
I like this quote from Justice Frankfurter's opinion because it is a warning to us about our times. Yesterday, President Bush reaffirmed his belief that he can engage in warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens unchecked. As Bob Herbert says in today's New York Times, President Bush's wiretapping activities are not really about balancing civil liberties and national security. Rather, they are further indications that President Bush believes he can do "anything he wants (mistreat prisoners, lock people up forever without filing charges), and justify it in the name of fighting terror."
We need to take Justice Frankfurter's warning seriously.
Monday, January 09, 2006
President Bush's Troubles
As a lawyer, it disturbs me that the President has decided to treat the rule of law so cavalierly. Our adherence to the rule of law is what makes our democracy so remarkable. The makers of the Constitution understood the importance of the rule of law. They put a system of checks and balances in the Constitution to make sure that the rule of law, rather than the rule of man, would prevail. They understood that no one person should have the power to make unconstrained decisions in a democratic government because it would lead to totalitarianism. With his position on warrantless eavesdropping, President Bush has decided to ignore the rule of law. We should all be concerned and outraged. (The "legal" reasons the Bush Administration has given for why the President's actions are legal ignore the principles of statutory construction and constitutional precedent.)
As the daughter of two World War II veterans and the granddaughter of two World War I veterans, I am angry that the President has chosen to treat their sacrifices for our country so cheaply. My parents and grandparents put their young lives on hold to defend a country they believed in. My father, who volunteered for military service, lost a leg in battle. He later suffered a debilitating illness due to his war injury, making the last 18 years of his life very difficult. One of my grandfathers, who also volunteered for military service, died at age fifty of a bleeding ulcer, probably due to the effects of having been exposed to mustard gas during World War I. They did not risk their lives for a government that treats its citizens like subjects in a dictatorship. Dictatorships secretly eavesdrop on their citizens without constraint, which is exactly what President Bush maintains his administration has a right to do despite law to the contrary.
President Bush has justified his actions by saying that his administration needs to secretly eavesdrop without warrants to protect us all from terrorists. Assuming this contention has any truth to it, Mr. Bush needs to find another way to protect us; one that does not violate the Constitution and laws. If that other way means that we as a people will be put at slightly greater risk, then so be it. I am willing to bear the greater risk to my safety to protect the freedoms upon which this country was founded. My parents and grandparents would expect no less from me.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Autopsy Reports and Tom Reilly
Without passing judgment on whether Tom Reilly's actions were wise, if he really did call the DA to make sure that an autopsy report was not released, as he maintains, then he was assuming that DA Conte did not understand the Massachusetts Public Records Law. (The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held in 1989 that autopsy reports conducted by a medical examiner are exempt from disclosure because they are "medical files or information.")
Is that because often public officials do not understand the Massachusetts Public Records law?