Utah lawyers volunteer to support Salt Lake Tribune journalists get community documents

The pro bono effort and hard work will come as authorities entities have progressively denied reporters’ requests for general public paperwork.

(Paul Fraughton | Tribune file picture) The Salt Lake Tribune office environment building at the Gateway mall.

Part of a journalist’s job is holding the potent accountable — including govt agencies that are funded by taxpayers.

1 way Salt Lake Tribune reporters do that is by submitting requests for community data, looking for contracts, email messages and textual content messages, or other reports showing just how that funds is spent.

But more and more, it is grow to be more popular for Tribune reporters to get the identical answer when they request for a public document: No.

That’s why lawyers from five Utah law companies have agreed to donate their time to the nonprofit news organization to aid reporters attraction records ask for denials — and get information and facts that should be public underneath the regulation.

These appeals can be time-consuming, exactly where a Tribune journalist, who is not a law firm, argues versus government lawyers about why a file a history really should be community. And when the information corporation has hired lawyers to symbolize it, it’s not affordable.

“Tribune journalists filed far more than 300 open documents requests very last yr, and the most frequent reaction we acquired was ‘no.’” explained government editor Lauren Gustus. “We asked for info that belongs to the general public and that, in most circumstances, was clearly in the community area. And so we’re thrilled to have added help from local authorities who can support us navigate this critical system.”

Michael O’Brien, an attorney with Parsons Behle & Latimer, has represented The Tribune for decades. He explained acquiring a law firm in the space during the appeals course of action degrees the taking part in area for journalists. Just about every governing administration entity that Tribune reporters check out to get information from, O’Brien pointed out, has obtain to in-residence lawyers, metropolis attorneys or help from the attorney general’s office.

“Just like the govt has a whole workforce of attorneys ideally assisting the federal government comply with [open records laws], but probably sometimes locating ways not to release documents, the information media requirements lawyers from time to time to support unpry that lid of secrecy,” he reported, “and convey some fresh air and sunshine into what is going on in govt.”

O’Brien and his workforce have assisted Tribune reporters in latest many years attain accessibility to police data, federal government work documents, and files from nearby school districts and colleges, to title a couple of.

“We’ve served The Tribune acquire records about pretty significantly every level of authorities,” he said.

But O’Brien mentioned that as extra reporters ask for data, he’s seen a corresponding boost in information disputes and government entities “dragging their feet” to give up data that are general public under the law.

That’s why, he stated, the professional bono software is desired.

The 5 law firms have agreed to donate up to 100 hours a year to represent Tribune reporters in report disputes. The legal professionals arrive from the regulation companies Wilson Sonsini, Parr Brown Gee & Loveless, Parson Behle & Latimer, Mayer Brown and Foley & Lardner.

Tribune board member and College of Utah regulation professor Randy Dryer arranged the work.

Previous Utah Supreme Courtroom Justice Deno Himonas, who is now with the business Wilson Sonsini, mentioned this volunteer effort and hard work feels like a homecoming for him. Prior to getting a choose, he worked for The Tribune vetting article content and symbolizing it in To start with Modification concerns. He felt it was critical to step up to help the nonprofit now.

“Frankly, never in the historical past of our Republic has great, educated investigative journalism been far more vital,” he mentioned. “And I imagine it is crucial we all pick up the place we can and do our share for it.”

Utah attorneys participating in The Salt Lake Tribune’s professional bono software

Lawyers are from the regulation corporations of Wilson Sonsini, Parr Brown, Parsons Behle, Mayer Brown and Foley & Lardner.

• Deno Himonas

• Jeremy Brodis

• Jeff Hunt

• David Reymann

• Michael O’Brien

• Michael Judd

• Melanie Clark

• Tyler Dever

• Robert Stewart

• Matt Moscon

• Mark Hindley

• Vaughn Pedersen

• Jared Braithwaite