Transparency News 4/21/17

Friday, April 21, 2017

State and Local Stories

VCOG is offering an in-person FOIA and records management training seminar, May 17, at the Library of Virginia. Click below for tickets and details.

Eventbrite - FOIA and Records Management, an in-person tutorial

Unlike just about every other city and county in Virginia, Alexandria’s online system to look up circuit court cases has been down for months. This means someone who needs to access a court record must spend part of their day trying to find parking, standing in line for security and researching on their own at the courthouse. Open records advocates say the lack of online access to judicial records makes it hard for residents — many of whom must take off part of their workday or make childcare arrangements — to look up case information. This is particularly difficult for those who don’t have the resources to hire an attorney or researcher to do it for them.
Alexandria Times

The Suffolk Circuit Court will hold a hearing May 15 on a complaint by the Daily Press and other media that they were improperly denied access to a crucial hearing in a state lawmaker's case in December. The access hearing will be held three days before a criminal trial in the felony child cruelty case against Del. Rick Morris, R-Suffolk, set to begin on May 18. The case involves allegations that Morris assaulted his wife's son.
Daily Press

National Stories

An Arab civil rights group brought a federal lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection to find out why the agency stripped several dozen Muslims of their expedited airport security clearances. The ADC, short for Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington, D.C., federal court that shortly after the 2016 presidential election, it began receiving reports from U.S. citizens and permanent residents of Muslim decent that the CBP had “inexplicably revoked” their participation in the Global Entry System program. We’re trying to figure out procedurally how it happened,” said attorney Gregory Siskind, who filed the complaint on behalf of the ADC. Siskind said that he, along with Nashville immigration attorney Andrew Free, had first noticed reports about revocations through social media queries, which prompted them to submit a March 8 Freedom of Information Act request in conjunction with the ADC. They asked the CBP for records related to each of the two dozen affected travelers they had identified since Nov. 9, and for data about annual revocations dating back to 2012 and other records related to agency directives about the Global Entry program. Tuesday’s lawsuit alleges that the CBP has not yet told the ADC whether it will comply with the FOIA request, or if it has identified any documents it intends to disclose to the civil rights group, which prompted Siskind and Free to file the complaint on behalf of the ADC.
Courthouse News Service


Last week the administration said it would not make the White House visitor logs public. In arguing that it needn’t, the Trump administration echoed a case made by its two predecessors. Both the Bush and Obama administrations tried to contend they had no duty to release the logs, either. The Bush administration went so far as to delete Secret Service computer records, and had its wrist slapped by a federal judge for doing so. The Obama administration rejected requests from open-government groups to release the logs. It relented after lawsuits were filed, although it declined to release some on the grounds they were “personal.” The Trump administration contends it needs to hide the records both for national security and the safety of visitors. Both claims are farcical. No visitor to the White House has ever been made a target because his name showed up on the logs. And if a threat to national security exists, it comes from letting people near the White House in the first place — not identifying who they are after the fact.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

IT IS DIFFICULT to drive through Norfolk’s Third Ward and not see Anthony Burfoot’s handiwork. In his 11 years on City Council, the now-disgraced official was a passionate advocate for his ward, which included poverty-stricken neighborhoods that had long suffered from neglect. The results were impressive. Alas, Burfoot’s legacy won’t be those achievements. Instead, it will be public malfeasance on a scale perhaps never before seen in Norfolk. With six years to serve, Burfoot will have ample time to reconsider. One hopes he will begin to comprehend the enormity of his crimes, the pain he has brought to friends and family, and the damage he wrought to his hometown. Because that — and not the many projects that unfolded on his watch — is his true legacy.