Meet the guest speaker: First Amendment attorney Paul Boylan

Photo by David Greenwald/used with permission.

We’re delighted to welcome Paul Nicholas Boylan as a guest speaker and seminar leader this summer.

Boylan received a Freedom of Information Award today from the California Newspaper Publishers Association for helping the North Coast Journal in a two-year battle to force the city of Eureka to release a police video showing the arrest of a 14-year-old boy in December 2012.

The video had been captured on a dash-mounted camera in a police car. One of the arresting officers was accused of using excessive force and was criminally charged with assault, though the charges were later dismissed.

The Journal submitted a California Public Records Act request in August 2014 asking for a copy of the video but the city denied it, saying that the video fell under an exemption for police investigative files and personnel records.

The Journal then filed another petition in juvenile court in November 2014, again seeking access to the video. In May 2015 a Superior Court judge ordered the video released, saying that the public interest outweighed privacy concerns.

The city of Eureka appealed that decision, but an appellate court upheld the lower court, finding that the video “is simply a visual record of the minor’s arrest” and could not be considered a confidential police officer personnel record.

The appellate court also moved to publish the opinion, which makes it a guide to how other courts will view police videos in the future. That move also was appealed by city officials. Last October, the California Supreme Court denied the city’s appeal.

CNPA said Boylan “has represented newspapers across (California) in access battles for many years,” often on a pro bono or contingency basis.

It also cited Boylan’s quick response in organizing a team of attorneys to file amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to uphold the appellate court’s decision to publish the case ruling, preserving it as “one of the most favorable access decisions with respect to police video footage records on file in the state.”

The award was announced at CNPA’s press summit in Santa Monica. Journal editor Thaddeus Greenson also received an FOI award.

Boylan has represented journalists and news organizations including the Davis Vanguard, the Lake County News, the Ferndale Enterprise, the Woodland Record and the Sacramento Valley Mirror.

A popular speaker at NBTB last summer, Boylan will speak to a Year 2 class about his career as a First Amendment attorney and advocate, and will also do a workshop for all students on how to file a public records act request.

 

 

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