Articles Tagged with open government

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It’s the end of Sunshine Week, so maybe it’s time to find your FBI file (or your grandpa’s).

The Administration’s policy on openness is quite broad:

“President Obama and Attorney General Holder have directed agencies to apply a presumption of openness in responding to FOIA requests. The Attorney General specifically called on agencies not to withhold information just because it technically falls within an exemption and he also encouraged agencies to make discretionary releases of records. The Attorney General emphasized that the President has called on agencies to work in a spirit of cooperation with FOIA requesters. The Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice oversees agency compliance with these directives and encourages all agencies to fully comply with both the letter and the spirit of the FOIA. President Obama has pledged to make this the most transparent Administration in history.”


Posted in: Technology

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This week, I want to point our readers over to a recent post by Joe Hodnicki at the Law Librarian Blog. Joe notes a letter sent recently to the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, requesting that Dr. Billington appoint a Director of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to assist in the release of unclassified and non-confidential CRS Reports. Among others, the American Association of Law Libraries, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Free Government Information, Public Citizen and the Sunlight Foundation signed the letter. (A full list appears in the blog post.)

The letter speaks to the accessibility of these valuable public policy (and public domain) documents, which are prepared by the Congressional Research Service for the members and staff of the U.S. Congress. While U.S. taxpayers spend nearly $100 million to fund the CRS, Congress does not disseminate the reports in any systematic way, and no comprehensive list of these reports is even publicly available from which to request reports.

I know it’s not lost on most of you that this is a movie we’ve seen before (or, rather, we see time and time again). It’s time to remove the barriers to access and paywalls we see that surround all public domain legal and government materials.


Posted in: Legal Research

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Last month, while researching a post on the politics and money site, MapLight.org, I came across another interesting online resource: OpenGovernment.org. The site is still very much in beta, but after having had a chance to check it out a little bit more this weekend, I thought it worth mentioning here to our readers.

The goal of OpenGovernment, supported in part by the great folks who run OpenCongress.org, is to provide and promote government transparency on the state, city and local levels. Still in its infancy, the site has launched and tracks the following states: California, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, and Wisconsin. Given that Justia is based in the Golden State, I decided to take a look at what resources and information are available for California. Similar to the tools available at OpenCongress, OpenGovernment enables users to drill down and learn more about what’s happening in Sacramento by looking at individual bills, following specific legislators in the Senate and Assembly, or browsing by issue. In addition, the site has its own “Money Trail” which lists publicly-available information about campaign contributions made to members of the California state legislature. As examples, check out Big Tobacco, Telecommunications and Casinos and Racetracks. You can also look up your representatives by entering a ZIP code or an address, and one hopes in the future that we’ll also see a mash up geo-tracking feature that displays bills which specifically impact where one lives, similar to the feature found on govpulse.


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law.gov

Great news, friends! Starting in 2011, Public.Resource.Org will release a Report of Current Opinions (RECOP) on a weekly basis. The Report will include a FREE HTML feed of ALL slip and final opinions from the appellate courts of the 50 states and the federal government. The feed will be available for reuse under a CC CC-Zero license, and will include page numbers. For more details, read Carl Malamud’s announcement on O’Reilly Radar. This is one of the major projects that Public.Resource.Org has undertaken since being awarded the Google 10^100 Grant in September.


Posted in: Laws

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Last week, Tim and I had the chance to attend a panel discussion at Stanford titled, “The Open Government Initiative and the Promise of a Transparent Government.” The panel reviewed various U.S. and international initiatives designed to get citizens more engaged with their government via transparency, collaboration and participation. Of particular interest to us, given Justia’s focus on law.gov, was listening to the panelists share their thoughts on the challenges faced by groups both in and outside government as they work toward collecting and turning raw government data into usable information, processes and systems. The general consensus is that we still have a long way to go, but it was heartening to hear more about some of the exciting things going on related to the transformation of our civic culture. As an added bonus, after the discussion we had dinner with Daniel Schuman, one of panelists and the policy counsel at the Sunlight Foundation, and Stanford friends Vicky Reich and James Jacobs. It was great to sit down and talk about different ways Justia might help in their efforts to bring more transparency to government. Stay tuned. . .

Also, check out the conference proceedings from the International Open Government Data Conference, the first event of its kind, being held right now in Washington, D.C., November 15 -17.