Local Legal Initiative

Local Legal Initiative in Pennsylvania

Exciting news! Through the Local Legal Initiative, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will employ an attorney in Pennsylvania to help local media defend against legal threats and lawsuits, assist with public records and court access efforts, and provide pre-publication review and other legal services.

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Local Legal Initiative Editorial

Help us build awareness in your community about this important issue by downloading and running the linked editorial, “A Pro Bono Mission for Open Government,” written by Michael Berry. Berry is a partner in the Philadelphia office of Ballard Spahr LLP, where his practice focuses exclusively on media and First Amendment law.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Local Legal Initiative?

The Local Legal Initiative provides local news organizations with the direct legal services they need to pursue enterprise and investigative stories in their communities. Reporters Committee attorneys will be based in key regions across the country to help local news organizations and journalists throughout the area defend their rights to gather and report the news, gain access to public records and court proceedings, and hold state and local government agencies and officials accountable to the public.

Who Funds the Local Legal Initiative?

The Local Legal Initiative is partially funded by a generous investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Reporters Committee and our partners are seeking further philanthropic support to match the Knight Foundation’s investment in order to sustain and expand the program.

What is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press?

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was founded by leading journalists and media lawyers in 1970 when the nation’s news media faced an unprecedented wave of government subpoenas forcing reporters to name confidential sources. Today, it provides pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists.

Why did the Reporters Committee Select Pennsylvania?

  • Pennsylvania is a large and diverse state, home to a number of collaborations, innovative journalistic endeavors and strong investigative reporting. Spotlight PA, for example, is a new investigative newsroom that reports on state government and other statewide issues.
  • With the state’s Right to Know Law only a decade old, there is substantial opportunity to create favorable case law for transparency, as well as to address the problems in the law. Some of the most significant issues journalists and news organizations in Pennsylvania face include access to electronic databases, records request delays and broad denials based on a provision in the law that protects documents reflecting officials’ deliberative process.
  • News organizations in the state need additional support to pursue more public records litigation.