AAC 2020

Access & Accountability 2020: Lessons of the Current Moment


Friday, October 23

8:45 Welcome by Floyd Abrams: What the Current Moment Has Taught About Transparency

9:00 FOIA Successes and Failures

How has our existing regime of FOI laws served us in the multiple current crises, what reforms are needed, and how can they be brought about?

Moderator: Charles Crain (MFIA)


Beryl Lipton (MuckRock)
Christine Monahan (American Oversight)
Gunita Singh (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press)
Cortelyou Kenney (Cornell)

10:00 Zoom Justice and the Future of Court Access

What has the COVID shutdown taught us about the capacity of technology to provide courtroom access for litigants and the public? Are we on the verge of major reconsideration of courtroom transparency? Can Zoom justice and the future uses of technology promote public access to judicial proceedings and records?

Moderator: Kelli Sager (Davis Wright Tremaine)


Hon. Ronnie Abrams (U.S. Dist. Judge, S.D.N.Y.)
Lauren Kirchner (The MarkUp)
Hon. Emily Miskel (470th District Court, Collin County, TX)
Sonja West (Georgia)

11:00 Break

11:15 Newsgathering in Troubled Times

How will recent attacks on journalists shape the scope and definition of newsgathering rights and the doctrine of qualified immunity? What is the status of the evolving recognition of a right to record, the on-going fights over ag-gag laws, and the impact of Julian Assange?

Moderator: Lee Levine (Ballard Spahr)


RonNell Anderson Jones (Utah)
David Bralow (First Look Media / Press Freedom Defense Fund)
Alan Chen (Denver)
Kelly Simon (ACLU of Oregon)
Wendi C. Thomas (MLK50: Justice Through Journalism)

12:30 Lunch Break

1:00 Law Enforcement Accountability

Deep dive into proposals for reigning in police misconduct and ways to achieve reforms with the potential to bring about meaningful accountability for law enforcement officers.

Moderator: Jonathan Manes (MacArthur Justice Center)


Monica Bell (Yale)
Marbre Stahly-Butts (Law for Black Lives)
Jamiles Lartey (Marshall Project)
Emanuel Powell (ArchCity Defenders)
Samuel Sinyangwe (Campaign Zero)

2:15 Break

2:30 Surveillance and Security

Exploration of the legal and policy issues surrounding uses of surveillance technologies, such as facial recognition technology and AI for predictive policing by law enforcement agencies, particularly on protesters and in other “mass surveillance” situations.

Moderator: Catherine Crump (Berkeley)


Hannah Bloch-Wehba (Texas A&M)
Ángel Díaz (Brennan Center for Justice)
Kashmir Hill (New York Times)
Jeramie Scott (EPIC)

3:45 Break

4:00 Executive Branch Accountability

An assessment of current oversight of the executive branch. Analysis of protections for executive branch sources and the reporters who rely on them (whistleblower laws, reporters’ privilege, Espionage Act liability), validity and impact of techniques used to retain information within the executive branch (NDAs, pre-pub review requirements, administrative “gag orders” on agency personnel, scrubbing official reports and websites), and the apparent breakdown of traditional oversight by independent inspectors general and federal prosecutors.

Moderator: Heidi Kitrosser (Minnesota)


Danielle Brian (Project on Government Oversight)
Hon. John Gleeson (U.S. Dist. Judge, E.D.N.Y. (ret.))
Oona Hathaway (Yale)
Jameel Jaffer (Knight First Amendment Institute)
Charlie Savage (New York Times)

Saturday, October 24


Deep dives into opportunities for cooperation and collaboration among law school clinics on issues of central concern to the freedoms of speech and press

9:00 Creating Precedent Before the Facebook Oversight Board

Convenor: Joel Simon (Committee to Protect Journalists)


Thomas Hughes (Facebook Oversight Board)
Kate Klonick (St. John’s)
Robert Post (Yale)
David Schulz (MFIA)
Mark Stephens (Howard Kennedy)

10:10 Supporting Local Journalism

Convenor: Katie Townsend (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press)


Anne Galloway (VTDigger)
Mark Jackson (Cornell)
Jeremy Kutner (ProPublica)

11:15 Break

11:30 Nuts & Bolts

Litigating Abuses of Power. In-the-weeds discussion of how to build a case to challenge an official abuse of power: standing, jurisdiction, legal theories, relief available and other issues for the careful litigator.

Convenor: John Langford (Protect Democracy)


Alex Abdo (Knight First Amendment Institute)
Ted Boutrous (Gibson Dunn)
Paul McAdoo (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press)
Kristy Parker (Protect Democracy)

12:45 Break

1:00 FELN Success Stories

2:15 FELN Steering Committee: Open Meeting with FELN Members


Bruce Brown (Reporters Committee for Freedom of Expression)
David Schulz (MFIA)

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This conference is made possible by generous support received from
the Democracy Fund and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.