Public Records & The First Amendment

public-recordsThe First Amendment – Although the First Amendment is one of the United States’ oldest pieces of legislation, it is still highly relevant in today’s society and will continue to be for years to come. First Amendment issues are highly complicated and apply to a wide variety of situations both for plaintiffs and defendants. The First Amendment protects both speech and symbolic speech, the right to associate, petition the government, exercise religion, and protects individuals from the government favoring one religion over another. The O’Boyle Law Firm, P.C. has a practice focused strictly on First Amendment issues including but not limited to, state and federal statutory protections. Do not hesitate to contact us if you feel that your First Amendment rights are being abridged or foreclosed upon.

Common First Amendment Issues:

  • National Security and Prior Restraints on Publication
  • Censorship Boards
  • Retaliation Based Upon Protected Speech
  • Defamation Law & False Light
  • Internet Blog Owners Hosting Third Party Content
  • Town Hall Meetings
  • Sign Ordinances (Residential & Commercial)
  • Student Speech
  • Zoning/Regulations of Adult Entertainment
  • Obscenity
  • Performing Arts
  • Press Shield Laws
  • Advertising – Including Regulations Mandating Speech
  • Speech on Government Property – Including Discrimination on Government Facebook Pages
  • Pamphleteering
  • Private Clubs
  • Regulations Aimed at Family Association
  • Super PACs
  • Broadcast/Radio
  • Clothing and Appearance
  • Threats/Hate Speech/Incitement
  • Protests/Parades/Demonstrations
  • Wiretapping/Filming Public Officials
  • Holiday Decorations
  • Entanglement of Government and Religious Institutions
  • Discrimination Based On Religious Practices/Sacraments

Public Records/Public Meetings – The O’Boyle Law Firm, P.C. also practices in thefield of public records/public meetings laws (“Sunshine Laws”) under various jurisdictions. Public Records laws are extremely complicated, but do often allow for prevailing records requestors to recover attorney’s fees.

The O’Boyle Law Firm, P.C., is familiar with: (1) Federal Records Requests under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act & the Common Law Right of Access; (2) the New Jersey Open Public Records Act & the Common Law Right of Access; (3) Pennsylvania’s New Right to Know Act; and (4) Florida’s Public Records Act and Constitution. The Firm also practices in the area of Open Public Meetings Laws – an area of the law which often accompanies public records.

Common Issues Regarding Public Records and Public Meetings Include:

  • Improper Form of Records Request
  • Undue or Automatic Delay
  • Incomplete Responses
  • Overcharging
  • Improper Redactions/Privacy Protections
  • National Security Exemptions
  • Balancing of Privacy Interests and Interests in Public Records
  • Special Service Charges
  • Records subject to Immediate Release
  • Anti-Shush Laws For Speech at Commission/Town Hall-Style Meetings
  • Improper Government Meetings
  • Improper Straw Polling
  • Improper Delegation of Decision-making Functions
  • Improper Recording of Public Meetings

Public Records are vitally important to the average citizen, commercial interests, and attorneys/investigators. We maintain a vested interest interest in getting our clients their requested records timely and at the correct pricing. Moreover, we assist our clients in navigating the bureaucratic hurdles faced in obtaining public records. We also may help you in protecting your privacy if you believe a public record has revealed or will reveal otherwise protected information (e.g., social security numbers or medical information). If you are a contractor, land developer, or a resident of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida or the United States who suspects that a governmental entity is holding unlawful, secret meetings, or has violated a privacy protection, please contact us below.

For government agencies, the O’Boyle Law Firm, P.C. offers training and compliance programs for public records and public meetings and will defend select agencies during litigation.