Amid media consolidation, ever-shrinking online advertising revenue share, and attacks on the media as an institution, the work of independent journalists has never been more important. Unlike newspapers and television stations, however, independent journalists do not have media lawyers on retainer who can advise on issues like access to government meetings and records, newsgathering torts, reporter’s privilege, or defamation. To address this need, in Spring 2018 the Clinic founded its Press Freedom and Transparency practice. We believe we are the only law clinic with a practice dedicated to helping print, online, and audio journalists on the West Coast. Headed by nationally known First Amendment and media law specialist Susan Seager, our Press Freedom and Transparency team provides free legal services to empower local, independent, and diverse journalists, bloggers, podcasters, photojournalists, media organizations, and others who are engaged in enterprise journalism and investigative reporting. If you are interested in working with the Press Freedom and Transparency team, please visit our inquiry page (and scroll down for more information about our intake policy).
The team provides a range of services, including:
- Pre-publication review and counseling
- Filing and litigating Freedom of Information Act requests and other public records law requests
- Litigate against gag orders and other judicial or governmental actions that constrain freedom of the press
- File motions to unseal court records
- Respond to cease-and-desist letters or represent journalists in other disputes
- File anti-SLAPP motions and defend claims against journalists.
The team has provided legal assistance to a variety of clients on an array of projects, including the following:
- T.J. Esposito Gag Order. T.J. Esposito, an independent Latino journalist in Kern County, came to the IPAT clinic after he was told by the Kern County District Attorney that a court had issued a gag order banning Mr. Esposito from discussing a controversial criminal case against the only Latina member of the county board of supervisors. After corresponding with the District Attorney about the gag order, the team filed a motion and won a court order stating that Mr. Esposito was not gagged; he held a press conference on the courthouse plaza and resumed his reporting on the case within hours of the decision.
- Fiasco Podcast. The team is providing pre-publication review for “Fiasco,” a multi-part investigative podcast on the 2000 presidential election.
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press/The Militant. The team wrote a letter on behalf of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press challenging a state prison’s decision to ban distribution of an issue of the weekly periodical The Militant.
If you are interested in learning more about our work, please visit our practice areas page and our testimonials page. You can also peruse our updates on our work with journalists. And if you are interested in working with IPAT’s Press Freedom and Transparency team, please visit our inquiry page.