Wednesday, August 21, 2019


MFIA To Host Conference on Accountability and the Trump Presidency

The Media Freedom and Information Access (MFIA) Clinic at Yale Law School will host its annual Access and Accountability Conference on October 4–5, 2019. This year’s conference will once again bring law school clinicians from around the country together with investigative journalists, academics, practicing lawyers, and law students to explore some of today’s most urgent transparency and accountability issues.

The conference will focus on the laws, policies, and actions that obstruct the ability of journalists and others to ferret out the news needed to hold governments accountable, and to develop litigation strategies and legislative responses to overcome them.

On October 4, expert panels will discuss impediments to investigative newsgathering, law enforcement accountability, algorithmic transparency, and public understanding of issues surrounding national security and the surveillance state. The day will also feature a debate on whether the Freedom of Information Act is serving democracy well, and offer competing views on how governmental institutions and historic practices designed to ensure public accountability are functioning in an era of technological change, “fake news,” and the Trump presidency.

The second day will take a deep dive into accountability issues that might effectively be addressed by law school clinics. The day will begin with a keynote address by Reuters reporter Dan Levine on “The Grim Impact of Judicial Secrecy.” Levine will report the findings of a year-long Reuters investigation into the practices of sealing records and issuing protective orders in federal courts, and the impact of these practices on public health and safety. Breakout panels will consider specific legal strategies to promote access to health and safety information routinely barred from public inspection in civil litigation. Subsequent panels will address steps that law school clinics can take to leverage their resources in aid of local journalists, and actions that might improve access to records under the Freedom of Information Act, including litigation strategies and the development of facts needed to promote a legislative response.

The conference will conclude with a presentation on the launch of the Free Expression Legal Network (FELN), a newly created network of law school clinics, academics, and practitioners (including nonprofits) across the country that seeks to promote and protect free speech, free press, and the flow of information. The network will focus on government accountability, transparency, and freedom of expression to encourage an informed and engaged citizenry. The discussion will highlight the services FELN provides to local journalists and news organizations that lack access to legal resources.

To learn more about the conference visit the registration page.

By Leah Ferentinos