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Citing Public Right to Know, Open Government Groups Submit Brief for Release of 38 Studios Records

Posted: May 17, 2018|Category: Active Case Fair Administration of Justice Open Government

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Four organizations have submitted a “friend of the court” brief in the RI Supreme Court in support of Governor Gina Raimondo’s appeal for the release of the grand jury records in the 38 Studios proceedings.  The organizations are the ACLU of RI, the RI Press Association, the New England First Amendment Coalition and Common Cause RI. The brief, submitted by ACLU cooperating attorneys and RWU Law School professors Jared A. Goldstein and Andrew Horwitz, argues that, in the case of 38 Studios, “the fundamental right of the people to know about the operations of their government” far outweighs any standards generally barring disclosure of grand jury proceedings.

The brief supports years of ongoing attempts on the part of open government advocates, the public, and even many in RI government to shed light on the case. Last year, Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice Gibney rejected a petition to authorize release of the records. Since that time, the General Assembly passed a law in support of their release.

The brief states:

“There is an overwhelming public interest in disclosure of the 38 Studios grand jury records. It is an exceptional case involving failures at every level of state government.  In contrast, the need for continued grand jury secrecy is significantly diminished…. 38 Studios has left a cloud hanging over Rhode Island government.  Although 38 Studios has had profound effects on the state, no public accounting has occurred. No official report detailing what happened and what went wrong has been issued.  In short, 38 Studios is a matter of intense public interest.  The public has a right to know how Rhode Island officials made the crucial decisions to spend $75 million of the public’s money on 38 Studios.  Rhode Islanders are also entitled to know whether the state conducted a thorough investigation into 38 Studios.”

Full text of the brief is available here.

STATEMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN THE BRIEF:

Jared Goldstein, ACLU of Rhode Island volunteer attorney:
“This case is about the fundamental right of the people to know about the operations of their government. Although grand jury records are ordinarily kept secret, the principle of grand jury secrecy is not absolute. It must give way under exceptional circumstances when the public interest in transparency is overwhelming. 38 Studios is just such an exceptional circumstance.”

Linda Levin, Secretary, Rhode Island Press Association:
“The Rhode Island Press Association believes that the public deserves to be told what decisions public officials made relating to this case and what happened to the public funds. While members of the Press Association understand the importance of grand jury secrecy, we think it necessary to disclose the details of this case because of its profound implications on the financial resources of the state and its citizens.”

Steven Brown, Executive Director, ACLU of Rhode Island:
“Clearly something went very wrong in the 38 Studios fiasco.  The grand jury records might not answer all the questions that remain in this saga, but having access to them may restore some of the public’s confidence in the workings of our state government.”

John Marion, Executive Director, Common Cause Rhode Island:
“Rhode Islanders may never know everything about how the 38 Studios debacle occurred, but they deserve as full an accounting as possible. Included in that is knowing how much effort was put into getting to the bottom of what happened.”

Justin Silverman, Executive Director, New England First Amendment Coalition:
"Six years and millions of dollars later, we still don’t know everything about 38 Studios. Rhode Island residents deserve to know what happened and why. That’s the only way we can make sure a similar debacle doesn’t happen again.”

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