Denver Policy Program Spotlight: The Future of FOIA (J1)

May 26, 2010

On his first full day in office, President Obama issued a memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that directed agencies to adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure. In March 2009, AALL applauded Attorney General Eric Holder when he issued new guidelines to executive branch departments and agencies on the implementation of FOIA that supported the President’s commitment to openness.

To assess the effect these new policies have had on the release of government information and offer practical advice on making FOIA requests, AALL Government Relations Committee member Susan Nevelow Mart will moderate a panel discussion on Tuesday, July 13 from 2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. featuring two distinguished speakers:

  • Miriam Nisbet, Director of the new Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), will provide an update on the progress her office has made in educating agency staff about new FOIA requirements and in mediating FOIA disputes. AALL was an active participant in the discussions that led to the enactment of the OPEN Government Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-175) and we were very pleased when the new law created the OGIS at NARA.
  • Anne Weismann, Chief Counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) will offer her perspective on recent changes to FOIA and discuss how effectively agencies are meeting the new mandates. CREW is responsible for creating, an online repository that gives the public an unprecedented level of access to government documents by allowing users to browse, search, and review hundreds of thousands of pages acquired through the FOIA and other public disclosure laws.

With such expert speakers, this timely program promises to be a productive and engaging session. We look forward to seeing you there!

Please join us for the The Future of FOIA on Tuesday, July 13 from 2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. in CCC-Room 102-106.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Last Chance to Register! 2010 Advocacy Training: Raising the Bar in Your State

May 25, 2010

“All politics and local,” and we hope you can join us for our half-day Advocacy Training session, “Raising the Bar in Your State,” on Saturday, July 10 from 8:30 am to 12:00pm. More than 60 AALL and chapter members have already signed up for this dynamic session, during which we’ll hold two concurrent brainstorming sessions:

  • The first will feature an interactive panel discussion led by SCCLL-SIS board member Joan Bellistri with several public law librarians who have successfully dealt with funding cuts in their states. We’re counting on you to help us brainstorm about new tools we can develop collaboratively to demonstrate the value of our public law libraries and build allies in every state.
  • The second, led by incoming GRC Vice Chair Catherine Dunn, will include a dialogue with the coordinators of several of our state working groups on the successes and challenges they’ve faced. Paul Lomio and Erika Wayne, who are working with NOCALL and AALL’s California Working Group to populate the template for the California inventory, will then summarize progress to date. They’ll also lead a group discussion for new ideas on how to populate each state inventory down to the local level.

We’re also very pleased to host guest speaker Keith Ann Stiverson, AALL Observer to the NCCUSL Drafting Committee on the Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act, who will give us an update on the draft act. We hope you can join us for this year’s interactive and fun Advocacy Training. Please register before June 1 by emailing Emily Feldman.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

New Whistleblower Archive Provides Unparalleled Access to Digitized Documents

May 21, 2010

Since March 2008, AALL Director of Government Relations Mary Alice Baish has worked closely with longtime whistleblower advocate Dr. Donald R. Soeken to find a home for an invaluable collection of digitized court and other documents related to whistleblowers and whistleblowing. We are very pleased to announce that after Dr. Soeken’s many years of tireless work, the newly formed International Whistleblower Archive is now using the Internet Archive’s Archive-It service to capture, archive and make accessible a treasure trove of whistleblower documents. Anyone who visits the collection will now have the ability to search a vast international archive of court documents, news articles, videos and more.

We commend Dr. Soeken for his commitment to ensuring a secure and permanent home for this important resource for legal researchers, lawyers and whistleblowers themselves. The collection already includes documents related to the cases of such well-known whistleblowers as Daniel Ellsberg and Fred Whitehurst. With the help and contributions of attorneys, counselors, professors, researchers and journalists, we hope that this impressive collection will continue to grow.

Whistleblowers who reveal government abuses of power help to protect against waste, fraud, and abuse. AALL strongly supports legislation in the House (H.R. 1507) and Senate (S. 372) that would provide protections for government whistleblowers to ensure that they can speak out without fear of reprisal. To learn more about the status of whistleblower protections in the 111th Congress, please see our Issue Brief.

Please be sure to visit this great new resource and forward it on to your colleagues and friends!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

Denver Policy Program Spotlight: AALL Public Policy Update (G3)

May 19, 2010

Are you curious about what AALL’s three policy committees and Government Relations Office (GRO) have accomplished this year? Do you want to find out what’s on our plate for next year? Whether you’re new to advocacy or a long-time information policy advocate, the “AALL Public Policy Update” (G3) is the perfect opportunity to learn about the work we’ve been doing for our members through the year.

Formerly the “Legislative and Regulatory Update,” the AALL Public Policy Update will feature updates from Copyright Committee Chair Joan Shear, Electronic Legal Information Access & Citation Committee (ELIACC) Chair Emily Janoski-Haehlen, Government Relations Committee (GRC) Chair Camilla Tubbs and Director of Government Relations Mary Alice Baish. They will brief you on key accomplishments in support of AALL’s advocacy goals.

  • The Copyright Committee prepared AALL’s comments for the triennial rule-making for new exemptions to Sec. 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and monitored the development of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
  • ELIACC published new state summaries updating AALL’s 2007 State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources to determine how much progress, if any, states have made since AALL published this groundbreaking report and continued work on a new Citation White Paper.
  • GRC monitored and advised the GRO on legislative issues, including the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act; wrote Issue Briefs on hot topics such as the state secrets privilege, net neutrality, and Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act; and worked with chapters to increase advocacy at the state level, including preventing library closures.
  • The Government Relations Office has most recently been working closely with Federal agencies to ensure that they meet the requirements of the Obama Administration’s new Open Government Directive. AALL contributed to an audit organized by to rank executive agencies’ Open Government Plans. AALL is  also coordinating the development of state working groups on public access to authenticated online government information.

In addition to these updates, GRC Chair Camilla Tubbs will present the 2010 AALL Public Access to Government Information (PAGI) Award to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School for their innovative work as a leading source of open access to legal information, and the Robert L. Oakley Advocacy Award to the Ohio Regional Association of Law Libraries (ORALL) County Law Libraries Special Interest Group for their successful efforts to protect funding for Ohio’s county law libraries. We are very pleased to honor these well-deserving winners with AALL’s prestigious PAGI and Oakley awards.

Please join us for the AALL Public Policy Update on Monday, July 12 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. in CCC-Room 201-203.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

SNELLA and AALL Celebrate Passage of Bill to Save Connecticut’s Courthouse Law Libraries

May 11, 2010

On Wednesday, May 5, the last day of the 2010 Connecticut Legislative Session, the General Assembly passed a budget bill for the new fiscal year that includes adequate funding for the Judicial Branch to ensure that the Bridgeport, Hartford and Litchfield courthouse law libraries will remain open. Pending lease renegotiations with the owner of the Willimantic Juvenile Courthouse, the Willimantic courthouse law library may also continue operations. Unfortunately, the Milford and Norwich law libraries, which closed on April 1, will not reopen.

The fight to save Connecticut’s courthouse law libraries began last fall when Governor Jodi M. Rell cut a stunning $12.9 million from the Judicial Branch’s budget. In November 2009, Chief Court Administrator Judge Barbara M. Quinn testified before the Joint Committee on Appropriations that she would be forced to close six of the state’s sixteen courthouse law libraries unless $7.8 million was restored to the Judicial Branch’s budget. In response to the threat of these closures, the Southern New England Law Librarians Association (SNELLA) and AALL worked together for months to ensure that adequate funding was restored to the Judicial Branch’s budget to keep the law libraries open.

This victory for users of the Bridgeport, Hartford and Litchfield courthouse law libraries would not have been possible without the many law librarians and allies in the state who spoke up in opposition to the closures. In January 2010, AALL and SNELLA posted five online petitions to save the libraries in Bridgeport, Hartford, Litchfield, Milford, and Norwich. The petitions included compelling quotes from local bar association leaders that illustrated the impact the closures would have on their communities. Thanks to everyone who signed the petitions or forwarded them to friends and colleagues, we gathered approximately 1,140 signatures in a little over a month and delivered the petitions to the Joint Appropriations and Judiciary Committees. We are very grateful for the support and help of the local bar associations and the Connecticut Bar Association.

On February 9, SNELLA President Nancy Marcove and retired courthouse law librarian Jonathan Stock testified before the Appropriations Committee to oppose the proposed closures. On February 26, Jonathan again presented testimony on behalf of SNELLA before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of a bill that would have restored funding to the Judicial Branch (House Bill 5148). Camilla Tubbs, Chair of the AALL Government Relations Committee and Reference Librarian and Lecturer in Legal Research at Yale Law School’s Lillian Goldman Library, also presented testimony to the committee on behalf of AALL. Their statements  emphasized the importance of keeping these law libraries open so that attorneys, judges and members of the public can access the up-to-date legal materials they need.

In addition to providing adequate funding to keep the law libraries open, the new budget bill gives more authority to the Legislature over the process by which the Judicial Branch’s budget is adopted. Specifically, it provides the Legislature with an opportunity to see the Judicial Branch’s budget recommendations by requiring that the proposed budget be included in the Governor’s budget. It also gives the Legislature the ability to reject budget cuts made by the Executive Branch to the Judicial Branch’s budget after it is adopted.

For more information about our successful fight to save the Bridgeport, Hartford and Litchfield courthouse law libraries, please see our new Case Study.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

AALL Contributes to Audit Revealing Wide Variation in Agency Plans to Make Government More Open: NASA, HUD, EPA Produce Strong Plans, DOJ Plan Disappoints

May 3, 2010

AALL contributed to an audit organized by to rank executive agencies’ Open Government Plans, which were released on April 7 as required by the Obama administration’s Open Government Directive (OGD). The evaluations rate the extent to which agencies met the OGD’s requirements and provide bonus points for exceeding the requirements.

While all of the agencies required to produce a plan completed them within the four month deadline, the audit found wide variation in the plans. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Environmental Protection Agency produced the strongest plans by going beyond all the OGD requirements, while the Department of Treasury, Department of Defense, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Department of Energy, and the Department of Justice produced the weakest.

Agencies will be asked to revise their plans by the end of May. and AALL will revisit those plans in early June to see how agencies have responded to this audit.

Please see our Press Release for more information.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

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