Open Government Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


Open Government

The ACLU of Rhode Island works daily to improve citizens' access to public records and meetings through litigation, public education and advocacy.

Why is open government important?

  • Openness in government is a linchpin of democracy, ensuring that the voters have the information they need to choose their leaders and then evaluate their performance in office.
  • Public access to information is an essential tool in the fight against corruption in government.
  • Public access to information can save taxpayer dollars and expose poor government practices.

The public has the right to know what its government is doing. After all, isn't our government supposed to be "of the people, by the people, and for the people"?

Learn more about the RI Access to Public Records Act here.

Learn more about the RI Open Meetings Act here.

Open Government in the News

  • Nov, 24, 2018: ACLU Sues Pawtucket Police Again for Shielding Records of Police Misconduct
  • Nov, 20, 2018: ACLU Raises Concerns Over RIPTA Attempt to Ban Journalist from Recording Meeting
  • Oct, 15, 2018: Citing Public Interest, Judge Rules in Favor of Fee Waiver in Google Settlement Records Request

View All Open Government Related News Releases »

Open Government Related Court Cases

2018: Cox v. Goncalves
Category: Active Case    Open Government    Police Practices    

About This Case:
This is a lawsuit against the Pawtucket Police over the Department's refusal to release reports of alleged police officer misconduct generated by its Internal Affairs Division (IAD). The suit argues that the Department's refusal to release the records is a violation of the state’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA).

Information on another pending APRA lawsuit against the Pawtucket Police, Lyssikatos v. King (2017),  can be found here.

Current Status:
Lawsuit filed in November 2018.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
James D. Cullen

More information related to the Pawtucket Police Department:

Supporting Documents
2018: Morgan v. Kilmartin
Category: Active Case    Open Government    

About This Case:
This is a "friend of the court" brief filed by ACLU of RI cooperating attorney Lynette Labinger in support of state Representative Patricia Morgan’s request for a waiver fees that the Attorney General is demanding in her quest for documents pertaining to the AG’s expenditure of $50M in funds from the “Google settlement.” The brief also asks the court to reject the basis offered by the AG for many redactions in the documents that have already been given to Morgan, who has thus far paid more than $3,700 for partial release of the records.

Current Status:
R.I. Superior Court Judge Melissa Long ruled that the AG must waive fees for any additional documents that are delivered as part of Rep. Morgan’s request for information. Citing an inherent public interest in the records, Judge Long also rejected the AG’s argument that records requesters should have to prove financial hardship in order to have fees waived.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
Lynette Labinger

Supporting Documents

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Open Government Related Legislation

Board of Elections Rule-Making (H 7438, S 2088) DIED
Category: 2018    Open Government    

In March, the ACLU testified before the House and Senate Judiciary committees in support of legislation by Rep. Joseph Shekarchi (7438) and Sen. Stephen Archambault (2088) to eliminate the exemption of the RI State Board of Elections from the rule-making provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). As it currently stands, the Board can adopt regulations affecting the voting process without having to go through a public notice or hearing process. 

The importance of the APA cannot be overstated. People have a right to know the laws and regulations they are supposed to abide by, and to have input into them. The Board of Elections is an important agency that sets the rules for implementing the democratic process of voting, and should not be allowed to operate in the dark; however, no action was taken on this bill.