tv National Freedom of Information Day Discussion CSPAN March 8, 2019 1:08pm-2:41pm EST
>> good afternoon. thank you for your patience. i hope you enjoyed lunch. i'm the policy director for the freedom of the press. you know, working within government to promote transparency and accountability and especially things like making sure the freedom of information act work as well as it should is difficult work. sometimes the outcomes are
uncomfortable and the process is a little bit flawed as anybody who's used it or attempts to implement it understands. and the work often goes unrecognized. and the next part of this program is an effort to at least will change this, the unrecognized part. the community is proud to be a member of the news media coalition, news media for open government and a host of the organization and here to present the sunshine and government award is the coalition director. [ applause ] >> hi, everybody. good afternoon. as rick mentioned, my name is melissa washer. so as our nation celebrates sunshine week, we're pleased to honor the chairman of the house
committee on oversight and reform congressman elijah cummings for his commitment to work and strengthen open government. thank you to the freedom forum for having us here today. we greatly appreciate the opportunity to present this award. we also appreciate that the chairman was able to join us here and make some remarks. thank you so representative cummings. we ensure that the government is accessible, accountable and open to the people. the award was created to honor individuals who have made a significant contribution over time to open government at the federal level. each recipient contributes to the public's understanding of open government laws and how
these laws impact every day people's lives. they protect the public's rights under open government laws such as the freedom of information act and they certainly serve in government making unrecognized contributions in protecting or strengthening open government. so for this year, the selection committee was greatly impressed with chairman cummings efforts. through asking questions, adhering of agency witnesses, negotiating behind the scenes and through compromise he and his staff have pushed agencies to do all they can to make foia work better for the people. he has also spent countless hours pushing back on overbroad and unnecessary proposals.
he consistently demonstrates a strong committee to transparency even on the most difficult of topics. would you all please help me to welcome the news media award recipient, congressman elijah cummings. [ applause ] >> thank you very much. that's beautiful. come on, don't run away. >> i'm back. >> don't leave me now. [ laughter ] >> thank you, all. melissa, thank you very much for
your very kind words and to all of you, i thank you for this wonderful opportunity. it's nice to be recognized. it's nice to be recognized. i've often said that when i get awards, for me it's not just for me. it's for our -- the wonderful people who work with me. i have a phenomenal staff. rachel maddow says we have the best staff on capitol hill, and i agree. and i want to thank krista boyd who's been our number one person with regard to foia.
giving her blood and her sweat and her tears for this cause. please give her a hand. [ applause ] >> i want to thank you for inviting me here today and for honoring me with this sunshine in government award. it is especially gratifying to receive this award from the news media for open government. i truly appreciate the critical work that you do every single day. over the last two years, we have seen sinister attempts to undermine the free press. and, ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you something, 200 years from now, people will be reading about this period. they will ask the question, they
will say i can't believe that they elected barack obama twice, and they will say i can't believe they elected donald trump. and they will say and during this period, i want you to listen to me carefully, by the way, this is not coming from a democrat, not coming from a republican. coming from a human being. they want us to question when you saw the press being suppressed, this is what they're going to ask us two hundred years from now, when you saw a white house that blocked information from getting to the people's representatives, when
you saw the first thing that our president did when he walked into the oval office is send out memos to career employees telling them that they cannot communicate or be whistleblowers, when you saw our cia, our fbi being attacked, when you saw witnesses that were necessary for the legislative branch to do its job but could not get the cooperation, unprecedented no cooperation, from this administration, when you saw it, you know what they're going to do? they're going to ask the question, what did you do?
what did you do? did you stand on the sidelines of life? did you say it's somebody else's business? did you write the story? did you write it accurately? did you take a moment to write the editorial? did you write it as you saw it? did you become fearful and say i'm afraid of what's going to happen to me if i do what the constitution says i can do? they're going to ask the question. and so i want you to know that i view an attack on your press as an attack on all of us.
and i will fight, i will fight with everything i've got. and i want you to understand that i got your back. i got your back. [ applause ] >> ladies and gentlemen, i don't believe in fake news. hello? i am the son of two pen costal ministers. in my house, a lie was a lie and the truth was the truth. i will never forget, i learned this lesson early. melissa, when i was a little boy, i guess maybe about 5, my mother had made a chocolate cake. and i loved me some chocolate cake. i always said, when i grow up, i
want to eat all the chocolate cake i can get. and then you find out you can't eat it because you'll get fat. but anyway, i was a little boy. i wanted a piece of chocolate cake. and so i reached my hand into the chocolate cake. i took me a nice -- didn't use a knife. just took me a nice piece and ate it. oh, it was so good. it was good until my mother came in. and my mother says to me who ate the chocolate cake? and i said i don't know. there's chocolate all over my face. and younger people won't understand this part. but back then they would call it
child abuse -- i am now they'll call it child abuse. my mother gave me the hardest whipping that i had ever gotten. and then after that she asked me one question, why do you think i whipped you? because i stole the -- no. that's not why i did it. i did it because you lied. we need to take that lesson and spread it around. and, ladies and gentlemen, listen to me carefully, we cannot allow fake information to become the norm. come on now. we can't do it. [ applause ] i'm struggling with a cold. but i'm going to get all of what i got to say out. we can't allow it to become the
norm. we can't. and you are the guardians. you are the guardians. you are the guardians of our freedom of press. you are the ones that are in guerril guerrilla warfare trying to make sure the information gets out. so that is why it is so critical for congress to safeguard your rights and the rights of every person in our nation to obtain information through foia. we have to have transparency. now, during the last election, the public made a decision. even the 45% who love our
president and who thinks much of what he is doing -- they like what he's doing, and i respect them. i really do. but even they said we want to make him accountable. if you look at the map of where democrats were elected, you can see that there were folks who said, we want to hold him accountable. we like him. he's our guy. but we want to hold him accountable. but how can you be accountable if there's no information? think about it. let that sink in. if you don't -- if the public doesn't know what's going on, if you can have a secret meeting with putin and nobody knows
about it, come on now. that is not the american way. we're better than that. we really are. you can't do the jobs you do. so you -- if you block information, it's impossible to have accountability. think about it. and by the way, everybody in this room is accountable to somebody. everybody. even if it's just your husband or your wife, you're accountable. your children are accountable. and when you fail -- when they fail to be accountable to someone, we got trouble. and so foia is critical to helping the american people understand the decisions that are being made by their government.
it is also critical to understanding who is influencing those decisions and how those decisions will affect their daily lives. when i took over as chairman of the committee on oversight and reform in january, one of my first decisions was to determine which issues i wanted to have our subcommittees handle and which issues i wanted to handle at the full committee level. because of the critical importance of foia and the federal records law, i decided to keep those issues at the full committee level in order to make sure that i give them my close,
personal, microskopic attention. amen. remember, i told you i'm the son of two preachers. one of your top priorities this congress is to investigate agency compliance with foia and to evaluate how we can further improve the law. i often say to my staff, never mistake a come ma for a period. in other words, things can always be improved upon. we can always be better on tuesday than we were on monday. and so we want to improve it. and so i hope that the republicans on our committee will work with us in a collaborative and bipartisan manner because this is an issue that has traditionally been
bipartisan. in 2013 when i was in the minority, i worked with our republican chairman at the time, to introduce a foia reform bill. as you may recall, you know i'm a bipartisan guy because talk about freedom of speech, the congressman cut my mike off. but i didn't let that stop me. we still did foia. you understand sometimes we will have hiccups in our lives but you got to move on because we must keep our eye on the prize. and i always remind myself that it's bigger than me. it's bigger than this moment.
and so it took us three years of hard work, with the help of many of you and i thank you from the depths of my heart. and then with the help of senator cornyn, patrick leahy, and others, we got it over the finish line. you need to give yourselves a hand for that one. [ applause ] >> president obama signed it into law in 2016. the foia improvement act is a prime example of how congress can work together. keep our noses to the grindstone and achieve positive results for all of the american people. now, that i'm chairman, i'm going to hold one of the
committee's first hearings of this congress on foia. it will be on wednesday. hello? and you are all invited. we will hear testimony from the department of justice, the department of the interior, and the environmental protection agency. i invited the department of justice because it is responsible for ensuring that federal agencies are complying with foia. in my opinion, they need to do a much, much, much, much better job because we are seeing far too much information being delayed and even withheld. i invited the department of the interior because they just proposed a rule that would make
it harder for requesters to obtain information under foia. in fact, last week, i sent a letter to the department raising concerns about their proposed rule and i was heartened to be joined by senators leahy, senator grassley, and senator cornyn. and i want to thank them for being so supportive. as you notice, it's bipartisan. i invited epa because our committee conducted an investigation last year of former administer scott pruitt. and of course the senior staff. and we uncovered troubling issues with the way epa was responding to foi yea. the administer's chief of staff told us that they refer, quote,
politically charged, unquote, foia requests to political appointees for review. did you hear that? that's deep. deep six. it's deep. so he also said that certain requests are deliberately, deliberately delayed. this is exactly why congress needs to conduct robust oversight to shine the light on these types of abuses. finally, since next week is sunshine week, that is the week when we focus on bringing greater transparency to government operations. i'm bringing the commerce secretary wilbur ross. that's going to be interesting.
that hearing will be on thursday. you are, what, invited. we want to know why he and other trump administration officials gave misleading information and testimony about how the citizenship question was added to the census. it has to be accurate information. this was a decision that experts across the board warn would harm the count. ross's own people, hello, hello,
ross's own people said don't do it. said don't do it. don't do it. don't do it, mr. secretary. and for some reason, they're trying to do it. but we've got to fight with everything we got to make sure that we address this issue again of just getting us some accurate information and then we can do the rest. as i close, as oversight committee chairman, my immediate priority is to conduct exactly this type of rigorous and responsible oversight. our work not only exposes problems in government, but it helps us develop reforms for the future. that's why our committee is
called oversight and reform. and so, ladies and gentlemen, i'm truly honored to be here today. my mother and father, god bless their souls, would be very pleased to know that their little boy, my mother and father were fourth grade educated sharecroppers, but they would be very pleased to know that their little boy, elijah, the one that used to serve the afro newspapers, i had a big route. i had a route so big, i employed other people. i was eleven years old. i'm sure serious. i did. i was good. i was good, now.
and the one -- and that their son who would get up at 4:00 in the morning in middle school and ride the buses selling newspapers, the sun paper, but they would be so pleased because they would know that not only did he serve the paper, but then he took the paper and he read it. but you all, you are the ones, you are so, so, so very important. you are more important than you even know you are. you are so important. and so i beg you, i would ask, but asking is too cheap. i beg you to tear down any walls that might block you from getting information to the
american people and to the world, that they need to know. i beg you to continue to stand up for a strong foia law. i beg you to work with us because, ladies and gentlemen -- and i beg you to do one other thing. i beg you not to be silent. martin luther king said it best, he said at some point, silence becomes portrayal. and i'm not going to betray generations yet unborn. i want them to know exactly what was happening in 2019. i want them to know that we stood up for this democracy. i want them to understand that maybe there were some people did
not fully -- that did not fully appreciate this democracy. and they thought that when we had a hiccup, they would bring somebody into the white house who would shake things up. but i want them to know that we, all of us, had great respect for those wonderful, awesome people who created the constitution of the united states of america. i want them to know that we decided that we are going to be all about the business of freedom of press and free speech of getting the information out. and so when we're dancing with the angels, somebody ain't going to read about what we did. but you know what, you got to
write it. you got to expose it. because if we -- if it does not get exposed by people like the people in this room, it will never get exposed. may god bless you on your awesome journey and just know that i know that we're at a critical moment in our country's history. but i'm so glad, i am oh so glad that you have come upon the earth at this moment, you have been called to this moment to be the guardians of our information and the flow of that information. may god bless. [ applause ]
>> thank you very much representative cummings. words that i think will linger long after today and into the years in which we continue to have national freedom of information day. i just would like to note that as we sort of return to your agenda that we will have a presentation on the sunshine week project from the associated press coming up and then a very innovative interactive program,
presentation, on transparency in the courts. and i invite you all to join us for that. we're going to move as quickly as possible into that. i know that tom has been standing by to talk to us i believe from california. he'll come to us via skype. so you'll see him on the monitors. we will be able to see him, but he will not be able to see us. and, tom, if you're listening, it's a really handsome crowd. there you are. with that, i think i'll turn it over to kevin for an introduction and we'll go from there. thank you again and thank you for standing by. >> you bet. >> thanks. i think you've probably done the introduction we need. one more -- just one last time for representative cummings. that was amazing. he mentioned his parents being
ministers. and all i have to say is amen. that was unbelievable. thanks again, tom, i hope you got to hear it. we're looking forward to what you have to say about this project that focuses on the lack of local news coverage and the affect that's going to have on local communities is equally if not more important to the work we do here. everything happens at the state and local level. and of course the sunshine hub project where they think people on the state and local level are going to be interested in using going forward. >> talk about tough acts to follow. hopefully i'll be able to engage people as well as representative cummings. thank you all for having me and being able to discuss this
project. ap is proud to participate in sunshine week along with our partner and is we truly do consider this one of the most important things that we do each year. as and e describes sunshine week as an opportunity to promote the dialogue of open government and freedom of information. and the ap has coordinated with other media partners to provide content that matches that mission. we focused on the rising costs for accessing public records from state and local governments. we explored the depths of campaign finance reporting. every state legislature company to show how they exempt themselves from public years. the year after donald trump one the presidency, the network produced a deep package of stories about the threats to democratic principals.
last year's sunshine project focused on transparency themes related to the midterm elections such as the messaging and digital advertising that happened in that opaque world of social media. this year, there were any number of transparency related topics that we could have focused on and indeed we did take on one of those which i'll talk about in a minute. kevin referenced that with the sunshine hub. but in thinking it over, we kept coming back to one of the dominant narratives of our industry today, it's something that you all know and feel all too well. the struggles of local news outlets which has led to papers closing and others facing rounds of cuts and layoffs. from 2004 to 2017, newsroom staffing in the industry fell by 45% and we all know the affects of that. a report about so-called news
deserts which i'm sure you're familiar with was released last fall and has generated quite a bit of attention in the industry. this overriding narrative posed a question despite all our efforts at promoting transparency, what if in certain communities around the country, there was no one left to shine the light, to borrow a phrase from the speech that representative couplings just gave, what if there were no guardians. we chose to make it the thrust of this year's sunshine week, anchoring our coverage is a city in southern missouri where the newspaper closed last summer. we sent in a team that included two reporters, including one who was a lifelong resident of missouri, a photographer and a video journalist. they asked the residents about
what life was like in a town that no longer had a newspaper. we think we came away with a compelling story. here's a short clip from our video. >> the community wants to know what the sirens are about, the community wants to know what happened with this proposal to increase our taxes. the community wants to know why are roads not getting fixed. the community wants answers to things that i'm the only one who can provide because i'm there and nobody else is. the reason that happened is that cars had not yet developed the horsepower and roads -- beginning at 9:00 in the morning every tuesday -- every monday, every thursday, i will be down at the courthouse and will be covering anything that might happen at the county commission.
that can be all over the map. >> so he knows exactly where it is -- >> the city council knew if somebody did something stupid, it was going to be all over the paper whenever the paper came out. but we're now developing an america in which people have no idea what their elected officials are doing, because the elected officials don't have anybody showing up to their meetings. do i believe it's possible to have sustainable local journalism model, yes, but i believe it's very hard work. >> that was a gentleman who is attempting to fill the gap in this town by posting news events to his facebook page and has developed a community form of some sorts to try to get that out.
he appears in our main story. in addition to that main story, we have a side bar about the importance of government accountability reporting, another that summarizes some of the efforts that are trying to fill the gaps in local news reporting and a column by a board member who experienced some of these challenges firsthand when she was the executive editor of the sacramento bee. we have photographs for each story, compelling video, which you saw part of there, and an editorial cartoon. we are also promoting the compilation of journalism wins, which is a showcase of newspaper accountability stories and how communities were helped through the journalistic efforts of their local media. this may not be our typical topic, but we believe it tells an essential story and perhaps it will help people remember why local news is so important and why they should support their
hometown newspaper and other local media outlets. now, i'd like to turn very briefly to our second topic for sunshine week. it's a more traditional angle about police video footage and how so many departments around the country continue to deny requests or delay their release indefinitely. that story will move through the middle of next week. but what i want to highlights today is the companion piece. it's called the sunshine hub. you should be able to see that page now. i can't see it, so i'll assume it is showing. the sunshine hub is a best of my knowledgeal lookup tool in -- it tracks state legislation related to government transparency, and we think this can be a great tool for your own reporters. you can see the main search page
here. in this case we search for all bills in the current legislative session dealing with police body cameras. we got quite a few hits. your reporters can do this for any number of topics related to transparency issues. they also will be able to follow the progress of individual bills, post comments and even suggest legislation to add. you can find the link, sunshine.org along with the directions for accessing it. and any economy with an ap account can access the sunshine hub. we released it previously along side stories about legislative transparency, but now we want to make it a regular feature of sunshine week and this is the first year that we are doing so. we think it's going to be a great edition to our mission of promoting government transparency and then calling out of course when the government seeks to operate in
darkness. thank you very much and i'm certainly happy to entertain any questions, if you have any. >> tom, could you give again that address and how to locate the sunshine hub. >> it's sunshine.ap.org. it's interesting filed to the wire. it's also being distributed through the ap distribution list and you can find it on the sunshine week website. >> super. again, thank you very much for joining us today and for standing by while we had to make those adjustments on the congressional schedule. >> no problem. very happy to do it. thank you very much. >> take care. thank you, again. join me in thanking tom.
good afternoon, everyone. i'm the founder and executive director of a group called fix the court. as far as i know we're the only non-partisan group in the country that advocates for greater transparency and accountability in the courts, primarily in the u.s. supreme court. i want to start by taking the freedom foreign institute, open
government, american society of news editors for giving me the opportunity to talk about whether or not we can use foia to help open up the federal court system. i do want to say a few things first. i know that powerpoint presentations are generally pretty lame. but i didn't want to do a panel because we've done a few of those already. they let me do whatever i wanted. so here we go. i promise you that during this presentation you'll laugh at least once and you'll learn two things. i do find it's ironic that i run a pro transparency group and i'm not good at technology. you'll again bear with me. finally, i know that i'm standing here as a humble non-profit employee, but i too was once a tv news producer at a local station in florida trying to get information from officials. for a time i was in charge of the freedom of information law
research and responses. i hope we can relate on some level. today on national foia day when the government celebrates by redacting eight whole pages, kind of like the hanukkah miracle, i want to -- some people get psyched for foia day. since this is the first slide that's been up here the whole time, can the freedom of information act bring more sunshine to the supreme court, if not how can we as citizens push the justices in a more transparent direction? hopefully there's people in the audience right now that have thoughts and ideas. i have more to say regardless in however you respond back to me in a few seconds accurately reflr reflects this. what do you want to know more about the federal courts?
anybody? or the supreme court? cameras. why are there no cameras in the supreme court and any federal and district courts. anything else? why is there no livestreaming audio or same day audio? that's a really good place to start. this is -- how do they decide on sentencing. yeah, that's a good question as well. yes. exactly. yeah. what have justices, where have they be, who are they, the people they employ, what is the process of hiring clerks. what is the process of deciding which of the 330 million of us end up as the nine sitting. exactly. those are good questions i hope to answer. except the sentencing one because i don't have an answer on that. so oh, no -- okay. a few years ago in february i went to grand central station
and i asked people -- i told people that we're not televising the super bowl. the super bowl is not being te l televised. >> did you hear the news today that the super bowl is no longer going to be televised? >> what. wait a minute, hold up. ♪ ♪ >> excuse me, sir. could i get your reaction to the breaking news that the super bowl is no longer going to be televised? >> only people that actually buy tickets to be in the actual bowl will get to see the game. >> that's ridiculous. no way. >> people are going to freak out. what are you talking about, come on. >> i don't -- i -- >> do you think football fans will be upset? >> i think football fans will be upset. i think a lot of people will be upset. >> i'm pulling your leg a little bit. the super bowl is going to be on
tv, but something maybe slightly more important than the super bowl will not be televised. >> what's that? >> the supreme court. they're going decide whether gay and lebeisbians can be married. the judges on the supreme court are paid with our tax dollars but for some reason, unlike congress we don't like to get their process. only people in the courtroom can see this process at work. >> so we can see the house have their debate, senate debate and we can't see the supreme court. >> not even on cspan, ever? >> not even on cspan, the ocho coming to tvs and online very soon. that's pretty crazy, right? that's something that that's so important we don't get to see or participate in. we only get to see if we happen to be one of the lucky 2 or 300 people in the courtroom on any given argument day. there are about, you know, 40
argument days a year. they usually take 60 to 70 cases that are spread out over 40 argument days a year. video is not allowed. you've heard from the public. let's hear from one of the justices about maybe what their thoughts are. let's take a listen. >> nope. yes. okay. sorry. i'll get the hang of this. i'm sorry. give it a second. thank you. >> we're about out of time. >> this is justice scalia. >> i need to get the latest thinking on your part. television in the court. >> television in the court. >> and the reason i bring it up is the congress has fooled with resolutions they never passed ordering the court to go on
television. why are you so against it? >> i was for it when i first joined the court and switched and remain on that side of it. i am against it because i do not believe, as the proponents of television in the court assert, that the purpose of tellvisievi our hearings would be to educate the american people. that's not what it would end up doing. if i thought it would educate the american people i'd be all for it. if the american people sat down and watched our proceedings gavel to gavel, they would never again ask, why do you have to be a lawyer to be on the supreme court? the constitution doesn't say -- no, the constitution doesn't say so. but if you know what our real business is, if you know that we're not usually contemplating should there be a right to this
or that. should there be a right to abortion. that's not usually what we're doing. we're usually dealing with the internal revenue code with patten law, all sorts of dull stuff that only a lawyer could understand. and perhaps get interested in. if the american people saw all of that, they would be educated. but they wouldn't see all of that. your outfit would carry it all to be sure. but what most of the american people would be 15 second takeouts from our argument and those takeouts would not be characteristic of what we do. >> okay, so that's the end of that takeout. and we're going to skip that. so actually if we could have the people in the back move -- since i saw a mouse cursor move at 8:52 of this video. we'll get the response of a member of congress to see what they say about justice scalia's
views. >> mr. smith goes to washington was released, members of the u.s. senate didn't want it to happen because it thought it made them look bad. at the same time, the representatives in the soviet union didn't want the movie shown there because they thought it made us look so good. i think there's a beauty and the history of the supreme court and what takes place there. i think about what it would mean if generations to come could watch the arguments that took place in brown versus board of education. or gideon. extraordinary moments that changed history and made our country a better place. watching at least 2% or part of that i think is very, very important. i think what you do is absolutely critical. i think there's a beauty to our system that's unparalleled in the world. i'd like my kids to watch it. >> so both those sound bites are a few years old.
this is a debate that raged toward. yesterday justice alito and kagan were on capitol hill, presenting their budget to the legislative branch, ask for $100 million a year. for a while it was done in secret. luckily we were able to get them before the committee in public this year. quigley asked the same question. and justice kagan was lamenting if only the people understood we were an institution that worked. i think there's a really simple way for the american people to see that. when you go to the court, you see, you know -- which i'll explain in a second. you see a kagan and an alito who were appointed by different presidents coming together and agreeing on things more time than they don't. that would be a valuable lesson in our bifurcated country today. there's also the issue about congress has cameras.
and the debate in congress isn't great these days. i want to point out that those who believe that tv coverage is the reason why congress has descended into the gridlocked body it is today, the supreme court you only have half an hour per side for oral argument. there's no witnesses, no exhibits, no real opportunity for grandstanding. the justices who you're presenting before never have to run for office. nobody's going to use the sound bite and use it as an attack ad. i see the cameras in the courtroom versus cameras in congress debate of apples to oranges. if you want to see the supreme court live this is what you have to do. i did it again, didn't i? i thought it would start. thank you so much. ♪ ♪
>> hey there, i'm kimberly robinson and i'm here with the executive director of fix the court. we wanted to see oral arguments, so we had to come and stand in line. it's pretty early, about 5:15. >> 5:15 in the morning. been here since about 4:30, 4 5 4:35. hopefully we'll get in. we don't really know 100% if we will. we are pretty early and we are towards the front of the line. we think we have a good chance. >> we're not sure of the process and that's kind of why we're here. we'll keep you posted as we wait in line and hopefully we'll get in. >> so the process is, if you can pause that for a second. you've got to wake up at the crack of dawn, get down there, you have no idea if you're going to get in. it's a real challenge to even be part of the process if you want to be part of the process. if you happen to be in d.c., not -- i live in brooklyn. it's not easy to get to the
supreme court. and so, you know, i think transparency, cameras, even live same day audios would help that. there's another reason the justices are against cameras. it's a pretty great segue to foia, i promise. here we go. >> problems and the primary point for me in the camera in the courtroom issue has been that regular appearances on tv would mean significant changes in the way my colleagues can conduct their lives. my anonymity is already gone. it's already affected the way that i can conduct my own life. but problems and the primary point for me in the camera --
>> sorry, that was getting repetitive there. i am just not good with this clicker. that's been abundantly clear. the point he was trying to make is his anonymity is gone. that's a weird sort of thing to be talking about. as a public figure, a member of the supreme court, i get it that, you know, it's justice sotomayor likes being able to shop at trader joe's and kagan likes to be able to walk around her neighborhood and not be recognized. even one day i think -- one of the older white dudes, i don't remember which, which you'll see in a second, there's reason for that. one of them was walking down the steps of the supreme court and a tourist was about to snap a photo and the justice, one of the old white dudes was like, do you want me to be in the photo, and we're like no, we need you to move because they didn't realize it was a some respects.
there is a concern about security. that doesn't mean we shouldn't have openness, justices on camera just so we have the executive branch. you can't be an advocate for transparency in the courts without being an advocate for judicial security. look at the headlines i have up there. we know sadly the security for the justices is more lax than it is for the president, vice president, the president. so in 2012 -- sorry his house was robbed. justice suitor was mobbed. the justices aren't guarded 24/7. security, the way it works for
supreme court justices, or lack thereof, it came into focus after the death of justice scalia. when the justices are in d.c., they've got the supreme court police department. it's its own police department. like in that part of town, got the capitol police, oftentimes you have secret service, you've got right over there some, you know, supreme court police department on the other side of the capitol. they're heavily guarded there. you know, if they leave d.c. and they're on a public trip, with whether it be to visit their grandkids or go on a hunting trip, they have to opt in to get u.s. marshal's protection. scalia did opt in for protection on the ranch in west texas -- sorry did not opt for protection on the ranch in west texas where he passed away. that's why it took hours for dept marshals to respond to the
ranch. i was curious. via foia i asked for this. justice scalia has been planning on taking a personal trip this weekend. originally we did not think he would need anything from the marshals. now he has asked if they can assist him in houston. then it's redacted for a bit because foia. and then it says flight details are below. then a little bit further down he'll be traveling with a gun. so this confirms generally what we know about how security works with the justices when they travel around the country. in my foia request, which i think was a few months after justice scalia died in 2016. i didn't just want to see, okay, are the justices being protected, like what was going on in texas. why did no one know he had passed away. why were these rumors? there were -- similarly with justice ginsberg, there's insane rumors that were going around justice scalia's death. nothing nefarious, it's a 79-year-old in bad health.
maybe there's a way to use foia to take the temperature down and reduce the prevalence, which, sort of a pipe dream -- to reduce the prevalence of these conspiracy theories. it took a while to figure out what was up. in that same foia where i got this document i asked for details on the justice's trips in july of 2015, all nine of them. why july of 2015? i asked for 2015 and i didn't have media status at that point and they quoted me an exorbitant fee. then i asked for july because they it's the first month of their three month recess. so i asked for that. and then i got this in response. right? so this is a page from a report that the marshals typically fill out pretrip when they're accompanying a supreme court justice. under part six, which you can see is all the blacked out box there. under reported threats -- so the
chunk of text that's been redacted. it's obviously terrible, not for the redaction but under reported threats there are threats. i wasn't sure what i'd get, the level of detail. obviously i didn't want any personal information. there was a point in time where i foiaed something and got very personal information from a justice. i e-mailed the foia office, i said do it again, i don't want this information. not my business. not this foia, a different foia, a state based one a few years back. you know, they did it right. reported threats should be blocked out. the fact there are reported threats and from extrapolation, we can narrow this down to sotomayor, ginsberg. it's harrowing. this is why we've been asking the house appropriations subcommittee to insure they're fully funded for security. we found out yesterday, very exciting, that during the
supreme court budget hearing with alito and kagan the justices have hired an outside security firm to do a top down review of their protocols. they didn't go into much more detail than that. you wouldn't expect them to. i hope it's not just talking about the security in the building, but also security when they travel. this is a scary time. obviously a congressional shooter. recently there was a man who was from maryland, a coast guard officer, who had searched -- in addition to having a stockpile of 90 weapons and a spreadsheet of people he was looking to arm, he searched online, are supreme court justices protected. it's weird and a bank shot, but i think this is a textbook example of where foia has done its job, right? we learn valuable information. the information related to the request that should have been kept private was kept private. and there are ongoing discussions, as i mentioned the
highest level of government regarding changing a policy, namely that justices do not have the protection they need. how supreme court justices are serving longer than ever. justices that served before 1970 served 15 years on average. since 1970, 27 years on average, almost double. as we all know there are a lot of issues dealing with aging, that we want to be cognizant of and some of the leading professors who study the supreme court and aging estimate that once every 20 or 25 years there's been a justice who has experienced cognitive decline. we don't want -- we're not trying to push anybody off the bench, but we want to make sure the justices have the resources they need and the rest of the federal judiciary have the resources they need to insure their cognitive abilities are being maintained as they age and continue on their service. so this is another way in which foia was useful.
well, sort of. you can foia the scotus of mexico, by the way. you can't foia our scotus. in september 2016 trump and clinton had weird health things going on. hilla hillary fainted during a september 11th event and trump, i don't know, something. i did work with a reporter at the time, who is also a valuable member of the reporters committee. he asked the justices individually about their health. he got a single letter back from chief justice roberts. it stated thank you for your inquiry about my health and the health of my colleagues. that's not my justice roberts voice. you can expect to see an able and energetic court when we convene in october. the court's public information office will continue to provide
health information when the need to inform the public arises. first of all, they have. since that letter from chief justice roberts they have sent out press releases about sotomayor and ginsberg's health and that's been positive. we want to know our justices are going at full steam, at a time when ginsberg is turning 86 next year, you know, kennedy was in his 80s when he retired. this is something that's a concern to all americans. we want to have a fully functioning supreme court. but so yeah, i was interested about this topic in general. okay, scotus isn't helping, what can i do in regards to foia? so i -- two things. i have gone to every circuit court in the country and said scotus isn't being helpful but maybe creating a judicial we wellness committee would be helpful. the ninth circuit they've been doing this since 2000.
i've been pushing other circuits and half of them have judicial wellness committees now, which is great. via foia i sent a foia and i'm not sure if it's the right sub agency. to the defense health administration. i asked them, look, you know, you've got article i judges, military judges, air force pilots that have an age requirement. the joint chiefs of staff have age requirement. are there any policies in the department of defense that help those individuals who are aging, age gracefully or check for cognitive decline. i haven't gotten a response yet unfortunately. it's interesting the supreme court thinks it's in this black box. i want to utilize hopefully through foia to see what resources can be brought to bear that are already existing somewhere in government that can be brought to the justices to help them age gracefully. okay.
finally, i want to talk about foia, how foia can be a useful tool for judicial nominations. judicial nominees in this administration and previous administrations often have government service under their belts in their work histories. many continue actually to work for public entities. several of the individuals on trump's scotus short list were -- or even are still teaching at public law schools like in michigan and colorado. so there are many foia opportunities. in may 27 when he was added to president trump's short list, i asked for all of brett kavanaugh's independent counsel documents. with regard to the white house documents, those were placed under presidential records act and not foia exactly. there's a 12 year window, which is pretty tight and tyou have t say we're going to save things for 12 years. after september 11th president
bush opened up the 12 year window and justice kavanaugh worked on that. we're not going to have a lot of documents until january of 2021, which is fine. that's the law. not ideal, but that's where we are. i did foia, the white house documents and doj documents. kavanaugh looked on judicial nominations. i'm still getting the documents. i had to sue several times so i'm still getting the documents. go to fixthecourt.com for updates. this is an e-mail -- you can't really see it, but i'm summarize it for you. this is an e-mail where justice kavanaugh -- and i know this comes as a surprise -- says some goofy things about the clintons, but the most interesting thing of which of course is redacted. you know, the -- i guess the right-hand -- you know, the
thing right there. the counsel's office memo led by the clinton administration contains some helpful information on a variety of issues, has been circulated to each of you. those memos make it sound like they had plenty of lawyers in the office. justice kavanaugh replied -- not sure. but i don't know why i picked that document. i have like, 500,000 of them. i really could have done better. you know, again, i'm going to blame this on my poor power point skills. okay. the big close. so increasing transparency in the third branch is not easy. all these side issues i mentioned but overall it's really like -- you got to come at it at different angles and be creative. there's a lot of work to do. you know, i'm going to go through this list. look at all the ways in which the supreme court and the rest of the judiciary don't have to
place their annual financial disclosure reports online. not being required to discuss their privately funded travel. they're not subject to oversight by an internal body. there's an office of legal counsel of the supreme court but nobody knows what it does. they're not subject to oversight by an external body. when the justices, they're also not required to follow a branch specific code of conduct. and they can earn outside income, a heck of a lot easier than people in the legislative or executive branch. they refuse to devest from individual stocks or place their investments into blind trusts. they can wait almost two years to report their stock transactions, what little reporting we get. when congress and top executive branch officials must do so within 45 days. and the list goes on. so, remember, the only oversight for the courts constitutionally
is congress. so, you know, how does congress in the 21st century work? say it with me, folks. crisis to crisis. so, you know, there's always going to have to be a crazy crisis for things to get going or i'm just going to have to get better at lobbying i guess. things are bad and opaque at scotus. you know, the real action -- because the real action from the hill may not come until there's a major crisis. it's up to citizen journalists, foia experts, foia nerds, and the larger pro transparency community to figure out and activate ways to let the sunshine in. as i've shown, it's doable and hard. you have to get creative, throw elbows and play nice to foia officers, lawmakers and really talk about how you know -- there's no political gains to be had here. we're not trying to -- making fun of one justice earlier, but
it's easily -- i can say plenty of things about all nine of them that i feel like aren't open and transparent and accountable. i hope you enjoy this, took something out of it. if you have some questions i'd be happy to answer them at this time, thank you. [ applause ] >> was foia always your first resort or did you try just sending a letter asking for information before resorting to foia? >> so that's a really good question. i think that it depends on the topic. like, for the judicial wellness committees, i sent a letter to jim duff at the administrative office of u.s. courts saying there's this model in california. they have a buddy system, neurological experts coming in talking to the judges about how
to identify signs of aging. let's do a federal judiciary wide wellness committee and he said nah. then i wrote each circuit executive and did that. on the travel, you know, to be honest, i've been thinking about that for a while. that was a tactic that was used ten years ago by a partisan organization. i didn't really -- i sort of respected it because it was creative but i didn't want to be seen as being partisan because i don't care which justice goes where as long as it's -- they're not flying on the plane of a litigant. so yeah, it was always in the back of my mind. i think that, you know, there's -- for every ten letters i write to scotus i get one back. the law of diminishing returns led me to get creative. i think private planes of justices thing from ten years ago. okay, scalia was technically on
a private plane. so he flew from d.c. to houston with the marshall and flew from houston to where he passed away outside of el paso without a marshall on a private plane. that sort of jogged the memory. you know, look, this is u.s. marshal is part of doj. it's worth a shot. fix the court's been around for four years. at the start i was not such a foia nerd. over the last two years given, you know, kavanaugh nominations, garland as swell. so with gorsuch and kavanaugh because they both worked in the government it was second nature to be like what are they writing about? you know, why not try to see if there's anything that would help us learn about their judicial philosophies via their doj or
white house writings. yeah, i think it's become more and more frequent over the last couple years because i know the court likes to stonewall me. when they see my name they don't like to respond generally. i think it's going to continue to be a more popular tool over time. thank you. >> i'm a journalist. you mentioned the supreme court of mexico, are there any state courts that are any better at this that would be models? >> there are. i've got to remember where on the spreadsheet they are. i want to say florida is actually pretty decent. there are some states where you're able to send foias about certain actions the judiciary, whether it's their judicial nominating commission or, you know, past writings or -- you know, yes. the short answer is yes. i don't recall where exactly. i know the national center on state courts has resources on that. but, yeah, i think that's something that's really
important. there are -- whether it be cameras in the court, ending lifetime tenure, conflict of interest rules, a lot of these modern transparency rules are being activated at the state courts, which is -- i mean the justices don't like to take advice from anybody. to be honest, i think that's a really, you know, positive crucible of democracy, as it's often called. there are a lot of transparency forward organizations. we had the chief justice of the ohio supreme court a few years back at an event we did at the press club. chief justice o'connor, which was confusing. she said, look, we had cameras in the courtroom, brought them in. one day a lawyer said something that was ridiculous. i put him in his place and there was never any problems after that. i think states could be a really good example for transparency opportunities at the federal level.
>> hello. >> hello. >> you mentioned the same-sex marriage arguments. i was outside the court for four years to go in for doma. >> did you get in? >> yes, we got in. we were 45th through 48th in line for 50 guaranteed spots. that was day two. that was fun. my question is about same day audio. i know i've heard some of the justices speak while i was in law school and they're all of the same vein, they don't want this. same day audio seems an easy fix. what's been the hardest pushback there? especially since they've implemented it in high profile cases. is it a burden to do it for every case? >> it's not. two years ago the very first argument they accidently released same day argument. it was the first argument of the
year, it was the first monday in october. and it was about some railroads, like a foreign railroad -- the details aren't that interesting or important. you go to supreme court.gov and there was the audio. it was a mistake and they took it down once they realized what was up. i think that -- and for the most recent time in which they've allowed same day audio, they've done it 27 times since 2000. bush v gore being the first, palm beach board of whatever v whoever. the most recent was trump v hawaii and the travel ban. that audio came out 42 minutes after the arguments ended. they do pump live audio elsewhere in the building. if you're in the press lounge you can hear audio. in terms of pushback, grassley
and leahy said let's do same day audio. justice roberts had no answer. we're trying to get same day audio for the census case. i think we'll get there eventually. i think the problem that i have with same day audio. it's saying those 27 cases are the 27 most important cases of the last 19 years. maybe for, you know, job roberts and bill rehnquist, but not for me or you. but signaling out and saying this is the case we do same day audio. maybe the other cases -- making the other cases feel bad, you know? i think we'll get there. i do think we'll get there. look, there's two circuit courts that do live audio and every single other circuit court releases audio within 24 hours. so, you know, this is something i tried to get the justices to talk about yesterday but they
wanted to talk about cameras. you know, they were asked three or four times by the panel of the financial service and general government subcommittee yesterday about cameras. i'm looking at them in the back like ask about audio. it didn't happen. honestly if you asked each justice individually and i've only asked one of them when i ran into them in chicago. john paul stevens loves same day audio. for whatever reason the camera question is like the first thing that people think of. you know, and i think -- but i think we'll get there eventually. hopefully it's some day soon. i think that, you know, it would do a lot to restore public trust in the institution. with that, thank you so much for your questions and listening and sticking around. i really appreciate it. [ applause ]
>> thank you, gabe. i have to say that in all the years i've been concerned about transparency and information from the court, that's a new approach using foia, which may well prove to be very effective. thank you for that. we have been doing a program -- i should name another issue, we've done a program called justice and journalism which we went for ten years circuit by circuit, five or so years which we convened around major issues and we're back out on the road again doing these meetings between journalists and judges at the federal level, appellate and district. for the first six or eight years, it was reporters banging on the doors of the courthouse yelling let us in, let us in. ever since then it's been the judges throwing open largely the courthouse doors in terms of
what's going on there and saying where is everybody else? one of the great threats to transparency in the courts when you get outside the supreme court is just the lack of people there to write about it. we believe there are less than ten and probably less than five reporters now assigned full time to cover a federal court outside of the supreme court. that's in the entire nation. they get lumped into justice beats or parachute in for a case very often unprepared. this project has helped develop a glossary, create people that -- experts that aren't litigants in the case or with the government. but i'll tell you that the information we receive as the public on the action of our courts -- of course, the appellate level is the supreme court for 99.9% of the cases that appealed in the united
states. the supreme court is now -- under 80? right around that number, something like that out of thousands of cases. tremendously undercovered area. but i love this idea of using foia to get there. let me close by thanking not just the organizations, but the individuals. lisa rosenburg, melissa wasser and gabe roth. let me also thank the engine behind a lot of the logistics you've seen going on today which is our event coordinator here today, megyn bowers, she's done an outstanding job. [ applause ] also thank you to our av crew back there. you did great, by the way, on the clicker. much better than i would have done. let me just close by saying something that maybe follows on what i opened with.
that was the observation of what is a quarter century of these meetings. i'm reminded by seeing many of the colleagues here that have been with us for a long time. we'reina in the process i think foia in handing that off to a new generation of leaders, of advocates. there's always a regeneration within organizations. but i think there is actually a second or -- 2.0 generation now that will pick up the torch on foia. i think that -- it's not that we've run out of gas or lost interest. disheartened. disappointed. it's really time for people -- gabe is a great example if you don't mind me saying so -- of the next generation that has to take up the effort and has to reenergize the important of
foia, the meaning to it . when foia was adopted in the 60s. when lyndon johnson signed that bill -- he hated it i think by the way -- what really motivated it to become law and to really go through about a 20 year renaissance was that the public was behind it. the public demanded transparency and access to important documents. somewhere along the line, i'm not sure that public enthusiasm has stayed with us. and i think as we hand this mission off, very often in the next few years to this next generation, it's just a personal observation i think it may be as much of a challenge as anything else. to reinstill that sense among the public that it's not an impossible thing to get information. that you do get redacted documents with the large black
marks. but you can also get documents that have tremendously valuable information. and that effort in the internet age ought to be easier than it is now because it's easier to get that information. we have to support funding for those agencies in order to be adequately able to respond. i would hope what we take away from today are the solutions as well as the problems we talked about. but also a commitment to this renewed effort to say to our fellow citizens you really ought to know this and here's how. with that, thank you very much for being here today. [ applause ]
jobs numbers were released today by the labor department. the unemployment rate fell last month from 4% to 3.8%. hiring slowed, however. employers added 20,000 jobs. the lowest number in nearly a year and a half. wages went up with the average hourly pay increasing 3.4% over last year. the largest gain in a decade. the war in the pacific. a cure for measles and the life and legacy of dewawight eisenho. saturday at 1:00 p.m. eastern.
>> for the american public, guada guad guadalcanal was the test for manhood. >> we'll look back on the 1964 film on the history of measles and the development of a vaccine. >> in a few weeks the results are evident. the monkeys that were not vaccinated developed measles. the ones like this one that were given the experimental vaccine show no signs of measles, but they have developed protective antibodies. the doctors now know that they have developed for the first time a vaccine which will provide safe protection against measles. >> and sunday night at 8:00 eastern on the presidency. university of virginia professor william hitchcock. >> dwight eisenhower was the
most respected man of that period, '45 to '61. he served the country as president and garnered massive approval from the public, having won two landslides elections. his average approval rating while he was president for eight years was 65%. average. and the next president who comes closest to that was bill clinton at 55% and after that ronald reagan at 53%. they're way in the rearview mirror. >> watch american history tv this weekend on cspan 3. former colorado governor john hickenlooper formally announced his run for presidency yesterday before a crowd of supporters in denver. he's running for the democratic nomination and spoke for about a half hour. >> put your hands together. let's give him a round of