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Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic

How We Work

The MFIA Clinic serves as both a vigorous advocate for its clients and as a supportive teaching institution for Yale Law School students in developing critical litigation skills. To further these twin goals, incoming cases are carefully screened for both potential impact on areas of the law in line with MFIA’s core mission and for their potential to serve as useful training for future lawyers. The MFIA Clinic is supervised by David Schulz, a Partner at Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz LLP in New York City, and one of the foremost media lawyers in the country, and Jack Balkin, the Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School. Individual cases are also overseen by a talented team of media-focused lawyers who practice all over the country.

The Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic's mission is twofold: to support a robust investigative role for news organizations and to preserve the public’s right of access to information, thereby ensuring a well-informed public sphere.

Students in the clinic, under the direction of their supervising attorneys, are chiefly responsible for research, drafting of legal documents, and appearing in court to argue on behalf of clients.

What We’ve Done

In its short life, MFIA has garnered an impressive string of victories for journalists and on behalf of the public interest at both the state and federal levels. Among its several successes:
  • MFIA clinic works with Attorney/Gawker writer John Cook with FOIA requests in a suit against National Archives and Records Administration. (More here)
  • In Mosallem v. Berenson, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, First Department, unanimously upheld the position of an independent blogger represented by the Clinic, and ruled that documents submitted to a trial court had been improperly sealed. The case is now the leading appellate decision in New York State courts on scope of the First Amendment right of access to court records. (More information available here.)
  • Working with The New York Times, MFIA helped to overcome a claim by the federal Office of Foreign Asset Control that the names of individuals authorized by the U.S. government to do business in countries that were otherwise subject to trade restrictions could be kept secret under FOIA.
  • MFIA won a unanimous decision from the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission requiring the release of police mug shots and declaring void a police policy restricting access to such material.
  • The Clinic has also filed several amicus briefs on hotly contested access issues. These have included arguments supporting the right of public access to administrative hearings, the importance of public access to information related to the operation of state prisons, and in support of anonymous speech online.

 

Contact Info

MFIA has taken on a range of clients in order to help support the public’s right of access to crucial government information and proceedings. Our cases are selected on the basis of whether the issues at stake are in line with our core mission, and whether they have the potential to positively impact the law. MFIA is run by students under the supervision of practicing attorneys, and unfortunately can only take on a small percentage of the cases presented to the clinic. Please note that MFIA cannot and will not give legal advice until we affirmatively agree to take on your case. If you have a question about basic legal information, please feel free to contact us, but we may not be able to answer all questions.

As noted above, potential clients should email mfia@yale.edu with a brief description of the case. If you have a more general inquiry about MFIA, please contact the 2012-2013 Student Directors: Allyson Bennett (allyson.bennett@yale.edu), Isia Jasiewicz (monika.jasiewicz@yale.edu), and David Lamb (david.lamb@yale.edu).

MFIA is a part of the Floyd Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression, and the Information Society Project.

Press Releases

 
  • Emily Bazelon “00 and Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic Win Access to Settlement Agreement in Phoebe Prince Case
  • Media Freedom and Information Access Practicum Looks to Increase Government Transparency and Support the Public’s Right to Know
  • MFIA Team Files Amicus Urging Protection of Anonymous Online Critic
  • MFIA Team Files Appellate Brief on Behalf of Journalist Denied Access to Court Records
  • MFIA Wins Appeal Seeking Access to Sealed Records; Ruling Guarantees Strong Protections for Newsgatherers
  • MFIA and New York Times Win FOIA Case; Ruling Clarifies Law Surrounding Personal Privacy Exemption
  • Victory for Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic as Appeals Court Upholds Online Anonymity
  • Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic Wins Access to Emails Between NYC Mayor’s Office and Former City Schools Chancellor