The New York Coalition for Open Government is a non-partisan,
non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the people’s right to know
in matters of public interest and the public’s business.
From time to time, the Coalition may need to
initiate or support litigation to further its mission.
Niagara County Lawsuit
Through reports by Mark Scheer of the Niagara Gazette, the Coalition learned that Niagara County refused to provide copies of annual financial disclosure forms completed by county legislators. Niagara County went so far as to pass a local law in 1996 stating their disclosure forms were secret and could not be viewed by the public. The Coalition advised Niagara County that their local law was in violation of the state Freedom of Information Law. We encouraged them to change their law, and they refused, so we sued them with the assistance of the University at Buffalo Law School and won!
Appellate Advocates v NY State Dept of Corrections
Appellate Advocates submitted a FOIL request to the NYS Department of Corrections seeking among other things training materials presented to the board of parole. Some training materials were produced but others were withheld under FOIL exemptions for intra agency materials and materials protected by attorney client privilege. The Supreme Court sided with the government, holding that the materials were exempt from disclosure.
Our brief with the assistance of the University at Buffalo Law School highlighted that the attorney client privilege should be narrowly applied in the government context and does not cover materials that constitute the working law of the agency. In essence we argued against applying the attorney-client privilege to anything and everything written by an attorney. The Appellate Division did not rule in our favor but two dissenting Justices did support our argument.
In making a determination to initiate or support litigation, the Coalition wishes to establish certain criteria that will guide it in recommending the commencement or support of any such litigation to the full Coalition Board, which must approve any final decision regarding the commencement or support of litigation. These criteria may include some or all of the following criteria or other criteria that may be relevant to a determination in an individual case:
We weigh a variety of factors when determining whether to become involved in a potential case, but our primary consideration is the potential public interest impact of the case.
If you have or know of a potential case that might be appropriate for the Coalition’s assistance, please submit a brief email containing your name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and a summary of the case.
Be sure to make clear who you want to sue, why you want to sue them, what you want to sue them for, when the key events happened, and why you think the case will serve the public interest. Feel free to include any other relevant information and, if possible, identify any imminent deadlines. You can email us your request at the following: email@example.com.