“People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing.”
Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 572 (1980)

In 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment implicitly conveys an affirmative, enforceable right of public access to certain government proceedings and information.  MFIA regularly litigates for clients seeking to enforce their First Amendment access rights and pursues impact litigation to establish the full scope of this right beyond access to judicial proceedings and records.

Our current cases include: 

Anonymous v. Anonymous
MFIA files an amicus brief on behalf of a coalition of major media organizations, citing the public’s First Amendment right of access in its argument to have the court records made available to the public.

Doyle Lee Hamm v. Alabama
MFIA files appellate brief defending its clients’ victory in district court and arguing that the document detailing Alabama’s death penalty procedures should be released to the public. The clinic’s brief was co-authored by clinic co-director David Schulz, staff attorney John Langford, and clinical fellow Charles Crain.

FISC Access Motion for Bulk Collection of Data, Misc. 13-08
MFIA and the ACLU are pursuing access to secret judicial opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that address the legal authority for surveillance, including the bulk collection of data.  

Guardian News & Media LLC, et al. v. Missouri Department of Corrections, No. 14AC-CC00251 (Mo. Cir.)
Guardian News & Media LLC, et al. v. Charles L. Ryan, No. 2:14-cv-02363-GMS (D. Ariz.)
MFIA represents several media outlets—including The Guardian and the Associated Press —in two lawsuits that assert the public’s right to know information about the drugs used in lethal injection executions.

In Re Petition Motion for Order Directing Release of Records (Pentagon Papers grand juries)
The Clinic represents author and Harvard historian Jill Lepore as she petitions the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts to unseal the records of two 1971 grand juries empaneled to investigate the distribution of the Pentagon Papers. Clinical lecturers Charles Crain and John Langford ’14 and students Jessica Baker ’20 and Ellis Liang ’19 are working on this matter.

Muhammad Husain v. Gates, 08-cv-01360 (D.D.C.)
MFIA represents ProPublica journalist Raymond Bonner in his efforts to assert a constitutional right of access to sealed records in the habeas proceeding brought by the Guantanamo detainee known as Abu Zubaydah.

Victor v. New York City Office of Trials and Hearings, et al. (N.Y. Sup.)
MFIA is working with the New York Times in an ongoing action seeking to enforce the constitutional right of access to New York state administrative proceedings involving disciplinary hearings of a corrections officer, and to defeat a calim that state law otherwise requires the proceedings to be closed.

Nolen v. First Judicial District et al.
MFIA represents Austin Nolen, a journalist who reports for the Philly Declaration, in an effort to gain access to certain categories of judicial records in the First Judicial District, the court system for Philadelphia, related to the criminal justice system. 

United States v. Doe


For a list of previous matters, please see the MFIA Archive.