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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

ProPublica report shows long-standing ethics violations of Justice Thomas

A new bombshell report by ProPublica entitled “Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire” claims that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has long accepted but not reported lavish gifts of travel and lodging from a Republican megadonor named Harlan Crow.

According to this 2022 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report entitled “A Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court? Legal Questions and Considerations,” Supreme Court Justices are not held to the same ethics rules and standards compared to judges at other levels of the federal judiciary. But they are supposed to submit submit financial disclosures. Justice Thomas seems to have flaunted those minuscule ethics rules. His actions have repeatedly shown in recent years that perhaps there needs to be more strict ethics rules – and consequences! – for Supreme Court justices.

Calling all independent government observers!

Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org — along with folks from several other great orgs — is organizing a non-conference in Chicago this August. He’s looking for 100 delegates to meet and work on issues of making government information more accessible to more people in a variety of formats. Find out more information here.

Are there any FGI readers out there interested in going? So far, there are 3 working groups (case law, municipal govts, and copyright) but I’d love to put together a library working group. Any takers? Leave a note in the comments to let us know you’re interested in going. In your comments, it’d also be good if you left your ideas about what tasks a library working group could handle. Think of this as pre-un-conference agenda setting 🙂

The Internet has created a new generation of individuals and institutes that practice the time-honored tradition of observing and reporting on the activities of government. These are reporters in the sense of court reporters, not journalists, auditors as in independent investigators rather than CPAs.

The classic independent observer is the court reporter, such as Henry Wheaton and Richard Peters, two businessmen in the early days of the Republic who took it upon themselves to collect, print, and sell the decisions of courts. Indeed, it was a business spat between those two that led to the classic pronouncement by the Supreme Court on works of government:

The Court is unanimously of opinion that no reporter has or can have any copyright in the written opinions, and that the judges thereof cannot confer on any reporter any such right. Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. (8 Pet.) 591 (1834)

The new breed of government observers span all walks of life. In addition to a vibrant commercial sector, there are increasingly a number of nonprofit, academic, and individual citizen efforts.”