Open Government Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases

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Open Government

The ACLU of Rhode Island works daily to improve citizens' access to public records and meetings through litigation, public education and advocacy.

Why is open government important?

  • Openness in government is a linchpin of democracy, ensuring that the voters have the information they need to choose their leaders and then evaluate their performance in office.
  • Public access to information is an essential tool in the fight against corruption in government.
  • Public access to information can save taxpayer dollars and expose poor government practices.

The public has the right to know what its government is doing. After all, isn't our government supposed to be "of the people, by the people, and for the people"?

Learn more about the RI Access to Public Records Act here.

Learn more about the RI Open Meetings Act here.

Open Government in the News

  • Nov, 21, 2019: ACLU Settles Suit Against N. Smithfield Police for Falsely Labeling Resident “Unstable,” “Dangerous”
  • Oct, 07, 2019: ACLU Objects to Proposed Limits on Public Comment at Narragansett Town Council Meetings
  • Aug, 29, 2019: Providence School District Sued for Hiding Documents Related to Federal Law Violations

View All Open Government Related News Releases »

Open Government Related Court Cases

2019: RILS v. Providence School District
Category: Active Case    Civil Rights    Discrimination    Racial/Ethnic Discrimination    Open Government    Students' Rights    

About this Case:
This is an Access to Public Records Act (APRA) lawsuit seeking a court order to force the Providence School District to release Department of Justice documents about the district's violation of federal law related to the rights of English Language Learners.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in August 2019.

Attorneys:
Lynette Labinger, Ellen Saideman

Supporting Documents
2018: Cox v. Goncalves
Category: Active Case    Open Government    Police Practices    

About This Case:
This is a lawsuit against the Pawtucket Police over the Department's refusal to release reports of alleged police officer misconduct generated by its Internal Affairs Division (IAD). The suit argues that the Department's refusal to release the records is a violation of the state’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA).

Information on another pending APRA lawsuit against the Pawtucket Police, Lyssikatos v. King (2017),  can be found here.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in November 2018.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
James D. Cullen

More information related to the Pawtucket Police Department:

Supporting Documents

View All Right to Open Government Court Cases »

Open Government Related Legislation

Open Meetings Act (H 5702) Died in Committee
Category: 2019    Open Government    

In a long overdue overhaul of the Open Meetings Act, legislation introduced by Representative Robert Craven (H 5702) would have strengthened language in the existing law and addressed technological advancements which have occurred since the OMA was last comprehensivly amended two decades ago. Read our testimony on this bill here. This bill ultimately died in committee. 

Senate Rules (S 250 Sub A) Passed
Category: 2019    Open Government    

Echoing a positive change made to the House Rules, S 250 Sub A includes the requirement for a minimum 24-hour advance posting of substitute bills up for consideration. Some other positive changes were made to the Rules based on the ACLU’s testimony. However, the adopted version also contains a new ban on signs, placards, or posters at committee hearings, rejecting our argument that the public should have the right to express their views through the display of signs.

House Rules (H 5037 Sub A) Passed
Category: 2019    Open Government    

In a remarkably quick beginning to the legislative session, a resolution to adopt rules for the House of Representatives for the years 2019-2020 (H 5037 Sub A) made its way out of committee and to a floor vote within the first two weeks of the session. On the bright side, and in a small win for governmental transparency, the new rules established that the public would, generally, have 24-hour advance notice before a committee hears a substitute amended bill. However, the rules also contained an extremely weak system of investigation for sexual harassment complaints arising from within the Statehouse. Some other minor changes to the rules were made in response to ACLU suggestions.