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

  • Mar, 18, 2019: Court Denies ACLU Motion Seeking Access to Pawtucket Police Misconduct Records
  • Mar, 14, 2019: Settlement Reached in Suit Against Woonsocket for Retaliating Against Domestic Violence Agency
  • Jan, 22, 2019: ACLU Asks State Supreme Court to Address Key Open Records Issues in Google Settlement Fund Case

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.

An ACLU of RI blog post on this issue: Has the Attorney General Put the Final Lapel Pin in The Coffin of the Access to Public Records Act?

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

View All Right to Open Government Court Cases »

Open Government Related Legislation

Open Meetings Act (H 5702)
Category: 2019    Open Government    

In a long overdue overhaul of the Open Meetings Act, legislation introduced by Representative Robert Craven (H 5702) strengthens language in the existing law and addresses technological advancements which have occurred since the OMA was last comprehensive amended two decades ago. Read our testimony on this bill here

Senate Rules (S 250 Sub A) Passed
Category: 2019    Open Government    

Echoing a positive change made to the House Rules, S 250 Sub A includes the requirement for a minimum 24-hour advance posting of substitute bills up for consideration. Some other positive changes were made to the Rules based on the ACLU’s testimony. However, the adopted version also contains a new ban on signs, placards, or posters at committee hearings, rejecting our argument that the public should have the right to express their views through the display of signs.

House Rules (H 5037 Sub A) Passed
Category: 2019    Open Government    

In a remarkably quick beginning to the legislative session, a resolution to adopt rules for the House of Representatives for the years 2019-2020 (H 5037 Sub A) made its way out of committee and to a floor vote within the first two weeks of the session. On the bright side, and in a small win for governmental transparency, the new rules established that the public would, generally, have 24-hour advance notice before a committee hears a substitute amended bill. However, the rules also contained an extremely weak system of investigation for sexual harassment complaints arising from within the Statehouse. Some other minor changes to the rules were made in response to ACLU suggestions.