Tips for Citizens
Here are some tips on what to say if a public meeting is being closed, if you are denied a public document or if you are denied access to a court proceeding. You can also send an email to ask a question. Be sure to check out the open meetings FAQs and the public records FAQs sections of this Web site first. You may find your answer there.
What to do if you think Idaho's Open Meeting Law is being violated:
If a meeting is being closed, ask:
If you object to the closure, say: I object to the closure of this meeting, and I note for the record that any action taken in an illegally closed meeting is null and void. Furthermore, each member of the governing body who knowingly participates in an illegally closed meeting can face fines of up to $500 apiece. I also remind the board that even in a valid executive session, no final action or decision can be made. The Idaho Open Meeting Law requires all decisions to be made in public. I ask that my objection be noted in the minutes.
What to do if you are denied a public record:
Be sure to first read through the FAQs of the public records section of this Web site so you are familiar with the law. If you know your rights and are polite, you can quite often get past an initial rejection.
If you are denied a record, ask to speak to the custodian of the records in question. Ask the custodian to cite the exemption under which you are being denied the document. Be sure to note their answer. Next ask for written denial and request information about the appeals process for the agency holding the document. Follow their procedures. You have the right to formally appeal the denial of your public record in the local district court. Contact the Idaho Press Club or Idahoans for Openness in Government for more information.
What to do if you are denied (access to) a court proceeding:The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a judge considering closing a judicial proceeding must follow certain procedures to ensure that closing the proceeding will not infringe upon First Amendment rights. (Press-Enterprise v. Superior Ct., 464 U.S. 501, 1984)
The judge must hold a hearing on the need for closure, and allow the media and others to argue against closure. A presumption of disclosure under the First Amendment right of access requires courts to grant access unless confidentiality is “necessitated by a compelling governmental interest, and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.” Thus, if a compelling interest is at stake (e.g., criminal defendant’s fair trial right) the judge must consider alternatives to court closure (e.g., change of venue, sequestering the jury, postponing the trial until the effects of publicity have diminished). A judge who determines that no alternative will work must also determine that closure will protect the party’s interest and must tailor the closure order to protect that interest without unduly restricting public access. Finally, the judge must present written findings supporting the closure decision in order to allow appellate review.
If a judge orders you to leave a hearing that has so far been public:
If you learn that a closed court proceeding is in progress or has already taken place, try to determine:
A blue-ribbon Media and the Courts Conflict Resolution Panel can be called upon by any member of the media or any judge at any time to resolve significant conflict that might arise on a case-by-case basis among the media and the Idaho courts.
To contact members of the panel:
To convene the Panel, you may contact any one of the members, or you may contact:
If you have a question for someone from the Idaho Press Club or Idahoans for Openness in Government, you may use our Contact form to send them an email.
Tips for Goverment Employees and Officials