Spread Some Sunshine Next Week
In 1933, Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote the time-honored words, "Sunlight is the greatest disinfectant." As the past week's events dramatically illustrated, no public official, no matter how spotless his or her record appears, should ever be immune from public scrutiny. Secrecy in government, at any level, is anathema to democracy.
I say this not to preach, but rather to preview Monday's kick-off of Sunshine Week, an annual, nationwide event designed to focus attention on the importance of open government and freedom of information. It is led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and funded primarily by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami, but it is not just for journalists, by any means, as the Web site explains:
Though spearheaded by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why. Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger.
Lawyers, needless to say, have significant roles to play here, not just in enforcing open-government laws, but also in reinforcing public knowledge about the need for the these laws and the public's right to government information. I know that news organizations throughout the country will be devoting coverage to open-government issues during Sunshine Week. Let me suggest that lawyers likewise hand over some time next week to this issue. As the Sunshine Week folks suggest, engage someone in a discussion -- a neighbor, a colleague or even someone in your local or state government. Consider it your small donation to keeping government disinfected.
Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 14, 2008 at 11:00 AM | Permalink
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