NEFAC, News Organizations Explain Puerto Rico’s Public Records Law in First Circuit Case

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


In a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the New England First Amendment Coalition recently argued for more transparency within a government body helping Puerto Rico restructure its debt and return to financial health.

Puerto Rico is included in the First Circuit along with Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

NEFAC and other media organizations filed an amicus brief — drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — explaining that the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico is subject to the territory’s public records law.

“It would be an absurd result if the Oversight Board that Congress established to create an open process to restore Puerto Rico’s fiscal health were allowed to keep the public in the dark about its activities,” wrote NEFAC and fellow amici in the June 25 brief.

“Such an outcome would further erode public confidence in the Board and undermine its effectiveness by inviting arbitrary actions, poor administration, and corruption,” they wrote.

The Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, an investigative nonprofit news organization, sought documents from the Board under Puerto Rico’s constitution and public records law. Among other arguments, however, the Board claimed that it was exempt from compliance with Puerto Rico’s public records law because they conflict with its obligations under a federal statute.

In the brief, NEFAC and fellow amici argued that:

• The federal statute — Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA — does not preempt Puerto Rico’s public records law.

• Congress created the Board to achieve greater transparency and accountability as to Puerto Rico’s finances — a goal entirely consistent with the aim of Puerto Rico’s public records law.

• Given the district court’s favorable decisions, the Board has been forced to disclose thousands of pages of records to CPI, enabling important reporting and oversight of the Board.

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. Learn more about how NEFAC is protecting the free press and open government in New England.

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 Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Paul and Ann Sagan, The Boston Globe, WBUR, Boston University and the Robertson Foundation.