Rhode Island Affiliate, American Civil Liberties Union


Open Government
Court Cases Over the Years

The Right to Open Government

The public’s “right to know” is a critical right in a democratic society. In furtherance of that right, the R.I. ACLU has worked to make government more open and accountable. Listed below are several cases relating to open government in which the ACLU of Rhode Island has been involved over the years:

1981: Nason v. North Smithfield

Federal lawsuit challenging town decision to prohibit a couple from attending or participating in financial town meeting because of the couple’s status as resident aliens; after suit was filed, the town reversed its policy.

1983: The Rake v. Gorodetsky

Favorable “open records law” decision issued in this case required Providence Police Department to release various records relating to civilian complaints of police abuse.

1985: Providence Journal Company v. RIHMFC

“Friend of the court” brief in Superior Court, successfully arguing that a state agency could not withhold from the public certain records simply because they had been subpoenaed by a grand jury.

1988: Injured Workers of Rhode Island v. Rotondi

Favorably settled federal lawsuit on behalf of public interest group denied the right to take notes at Workers Compensation Commission hearings.

1990: Providence Journal Company v. Kane

“Friend of the court” brief challenging a Superior Court decision which held that, under the state’s Open Records Law, records relating to “personnel” are automatically and completely exempt from disclosure.

1995: Direct Action for Rights and Equality v. Gannon

Successful open records lawsuit filed on behalf of a Providence community group seeking access to various city police department records relating to police brutality.

1996: Operation Clean Government v. Superior Court

Favorably settled suit challenging a court order sealing the identities of six public officials who had anonymously sued the Ethics Commission.

1996: League of Women Voters of R.I. v. R.I. State Board of Elections

Successful federal lawsuit requiring the state to take immediate action to fully comply with the National Voter Registration Act.

1997: Corbett v. City of Providence

Favorably settled lawsuit challenging City’s non-compliance with copying cost limits imposed by the open records law.

1999: Solas v. Emergency Hiring Council of the State of Rhode Island

Successful lawsuit challenging the failure of the Governor’s Emergency Hiring Council to abide by the Open Meetings Law.

2001: Brown v. Providence Police Department

Successful open records lawsuit challenging police department’s refusal to release copies of its policies governing the city’s use of video surveillance cameras in public street locations and in police cars.

2002: In re: Providence Journal Company

“Friend of the court” brief filed in response to court’s refusal to publicly release various briefs submitted in the “Operation Plunder Dome” corruption case, asking appeals court to overturn the district court’s long-standing practice of not placing any court briefs in the public file. The appellate court overturned the no-filing policy.

2005: Butterfield v. Gemma

Favorably settled open records lawsuit challenging a town requirement that a person provide his/her name and e-mail address to access an on-line database of tax assessment records.

2007: Rhode Island Affiliate, ACLU v. Moran

Open records lawsuit successfully challenging a police department’s refusal to release the report regarding the fatal shooting of a resident by police.

2009: Phoenix-Times Publishing Company v. Hasenfus

Open meetings lawsuit challenging a school committee’s discussion in executive session of a proposed breathalyzer policy for school dances.

2010: RI NOW v. Wall

Favorably settled open records lawsuit against the Department of Corrections for refusing to disclose its policies relating to the use of restraints on pregnant prisoners.

2011: R.I. ACLU v. Department of Public Safety

Lawsuit challenging the adoption of regulations by the State Police significantly limiting public access to arrest reports and other police records.

See Other Highlighted Open Government Cases:

Return to: Recent Open Government Court Cases

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