News/Media Alliance Joins Brief Arguing Against Unconstitutional Prior Restraint

On March 6, 2024, the Alliance joined a brief in Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC) v. U.S. Park Police filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in support of HRDC in a FOIA records dispute. In this case, HRDC, publisher of Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News, submitted a FOIA request to the Park Police seeking access to records about claims filed against the agency. The Park Police failed to respond, and HRDC filed a FOIA lawsuit which eventuated in the agency releasing records after negotiations. Park Police then claimed it accidentally released the names of two people it asserts were exempt under FOIA and requested the district court order the records be clawed back. The district court ordered HRDC “not to disclose, disseminate, or make use” of the information. HRDC appealed, arguing the order constitutes an unconstitutional prior restraint regarding lawfully obtained information. The brief, drafted by RCFP, argues that the court erred in failing to conduct the First Amendment analysis needed to overcome the bar against prior restraints in all but the most exceptional circumstances. The case is important in ensuring the press can vindicate their statutory right to access agency records in court without fear an agency will obtain an unconstitutional prior restraint. Read more.


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