NEFAC Argues for More Transparency in Mass. Legislature, Governor’s Office and Judiciary


CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

The New England First Amendment Coalition testified today in support of expanding the Massachusetts public records law to include the state’s legislature, governor’s office and judiciary.

“No matter how strongly the public records statute may be written, it still only covers a small fraction of the documents produced by state government,” explained Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director, in comments submitted to the state’s Special Legislative Commission on Public Records.

Silverman added, “It’s an embarrassment that Massachusetts — whose own constitution explicitly requires government accountability to the people — is the only state in the country where the public lacks a right to records in the Governor’s Office, the judiciary and the legislature. Accountability simply cannot exist where there is secrecy.”

In 2016, Massachusetts passed legislation strengthening its public records law and creating a special legislative commission “to examine the accessibility of information concerning the legislative process of the general court and the expansion of the definition of public records.” During a hearing today, the commission heard from various public interest groups about the need for more improvements to the law.

In addition to submitting written comments, Silverman attended the hearing and emphasized the need for more transparency within the legislature, particularly given the recent reports of sexual harassment on Beacon Hill that resulted in a change of state Senate leadership. As he explained in his letter to the commission:

“Without fully assessing the scope of the problem, Massachusetts residents cannot achieve full accountability. This would change, however, if the Legislature were subject to the state’s public records statute and constituents were entitled to the information now being kept secret. In comparison, residents in other states are enjoying the full accountability, and ultimately protection, that broader public record laws provide.”

Since its founding in 2006, NEFAC has helped lead the way for public records reform in the Commonwealth. NEFAC is a steering member of the Massachusetts Freedom of Information Alliance — along with the ACLU of Massachusetts, Common Cause and the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association — and played an instrumental role in bringing about significant changes to the public records statute in 2016.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.