Visit Jean Maneke's website at manekelaw.com, you can also e-mail attorney Jean Maneke at email@example.com, or call her at (816) 753-9000 with your questions or for help on open meetings/open records issues, advertising regulations and other legal matters. Consultation is free to active members, and Jean is always eager to help. Jean also has a blog that discusses violations of the Sunshine Law in Missouri and ways to keep the SUN SHINING on Missouri government.
Periodically, newspapers call the hotline concerned over a reader’s letter complaining that the newspaper’s searchable online archives contain a story about the person’s arrest on a criminal charge. Inevitably, there is a demand that the newspaper remove that person’s information from the archives and, often, a threat of suit if the newspaper refuses.
With the growing bulk of information, especially court information, available online, those with criminal convictions have discovered information about earlier mistakes is now much more readily available to the public. It can cause greater difficulty hiding these convictions from potential employers, from those conducting background searches for various professional reasons and from countries that will not allow entrance to those with criminal records.
State legislators, faced with constituents who complain they want this information protected from public disclosure, struggle with whether court records should ever be closed. Many powerful groups, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, don’t want that information closed. So where should the line be drawn between information the public has a right to know and information that, for one reason or another, is no longer relevant to the public?
In the last two decades, many states passed laws allowing expungement of some criminal records. Missouri is among those states, with its first expungement statute (which can be found beginning at Section 610.122, at the end of... continued...
One of the privileges of being your hotline attorney is that it gives me a view into the many reporting endeavors going on in the state among its newspaper reporters. You have no idea how much fun this is for me!
During the years I spent in law school, my greatest frustration was not being “on the front lines” of the news as I had been as a reporter at the Springfield Leader & Press (now News-Leader). And the best thing about practicing law with all of you is that once again I have a window back on the “front line” to see what you are doing in your newsrooms.
And so, the release a few days ago of the state audit of Missouri State University was as exciting for me as it was for the staff of the Springfield News-Leader, I’m sure. I have worked with that staff numerous times in the last few years analyzing concerns about the actions of MSU's Board of Governors in holding closed meetings that reporters felt were an abuse of the sunshine law.
I have helped draft sunshine law document requests with reporters and pondered how to further request access when the reply from the university was not as forthcoming as the reporters had anticipated. It was clear, in many cases, that responses were narrowly crafted and that documents were being withheld or severely edited before being released.
Clearly, MSU was not operating in a spirit of sunshine.
The report issued by State Auditor Susan Montee on MSU on Oct. 19 doesn’t... continued...
Several days back, on a Friday afternoon, I sat in my office near the Plaza in Kansas City and had an amazing experience. There was a significant rape trial going on downtown at the Jackson County Courthouse. It was getting close to 4:30. The trial had been ongoing all week and was the subject of much news coverage.
All of the television stations in town wanted to cover the trial because the rapes had occurred many years ago, and it was evident that the conviction would depend on the DNA evidence that had been recovered, preserved and only recently had led police to the alleged rapist. There was little other significant evidence.
As I sat in my office, what was amazing was not what was happening in the courtroom, but what was happening OUTSIDE the courtroom and that is what has affected me so profoundly.
But let me take you back to January.
Those of you who know me know that... continued...
Several issues relating to advertising have come up this month that I want to address to those of you handling the newspaper’s ad content. You will want to keep this column handy.
First, if you regularly read the Bulletin when from Missouri Press Association, you saw my brief note about issues relating to attribution in political advertising.
It has become common practice among many of the smaller newspapers in the state to use the words “Paid for by the candidate” in political advertising of local races, where the candidates come in and pay for the ad themselves.
I would suggest you alert your ad staff that they need to change that practice. Section 130.031 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri relates to the attribution that is required on political campaign ads. It says, when an ad is paid for by the candidate from personal funds and where no candidate campaign committee exists, such ads must say “Paid for by” and include the first and last name by which the candidate is known.
I was in court a couple of weeks ago arguing a sunshine law case for a non-media client. As I worked on the argument, I worried about what the future holds for the sunshine law if we are unsuccessful in convincing our judge as to what we believe the right decision should be.
The case relates to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. It has computerized its accident reports and, I assume, its incident reports. If you want to see an accident report, you must pay for a copy to be made and identify what record you want. They then print out the copy and charge you for it.
There are no paper copies available to look at — to "inspect," in sunshine law terms — in order to decide which reports you might want to pay to have copied. And there is no public computer terminal to review them, like the courts make available at courthouses to look for court files and docket sheets.
Why are there no paper copies, and why is there no computer terminal available? Because, the police department says, it cannot afford to provide these to the public. Therefore, they argue, when the sunshine law talks about your right to "inspect and copy" records, those two terms go together. You can only "inspect" the record if you can afford to copy it.
This doesn't work for my client, who inspects a lot of records and is very interested in accident reports. My client wants to see... continued...
Friday March 7th
Have you registered for this year's Missouri Advertising Managers Meeting? Click here for our agenda and don't forget to sign up! Link
Thursday March 6th
Happy Thursday from MPA! Today in history: Walter Cronkite, "the most trusted man in America," retired from CBS Evening News in 1981. Link
Wednesday March 5th
Check out some recent journalism events! Link
RT @nytimesphoto: Photos of the Day: http://t.co/ewXPgSrlRo
Thursday March 6th