Leahy to receive First Amendment award

Sen. Patrick Leahy will receive the 2016 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award in Boston on Friday in recognition of his advocacy of greater press freedoms, including work to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and calls for court proceedings to be televised.

Leahy has sponsored nearly 20 bills and resolutions to improve government transparency, though much of that legislation has not been adopted as law.

A recent bill, the 2015 FOIA Improvement Act, which would create a presumption of openness in federal agencies and require public documents to be digitized and made more easily available, has not gained traction.

Leahy has also called for cameras in courthouses as a means of increasing transparency and oversight and held hearings on the matter as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The award, bestowed by the New England First Amendment Coalition, comes as Leahy prepares for a Senate battle with Republicans over nominating a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

A blistering Leahy op-ed appeared Tuesday in USA Today demanding Republicans ease the gridlock and confirm a justice swiftly.

“Under our Constitution, the Supreme Court plays a fundamental role in our system of checks and balances,” Leahy wrote. “If partisans succeed in deliberately blocking any nominee from confirmation for more than a year, it will mean that the Supreme Court will not be at full strength for two terms.”

President Barack Obama has said he plans to announce his nominee soon.

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Jasper Craven

About Jasper

Jasper Craven is a freelance reporter for VTDigger.

A Vermont native, he first discovered his love for journalism at the Caledonian Record. He double-majored in print journalism and political science at Boston University, and worked in the Boston Globe’s Metro and Investigative units. While at the Globe he collaborated on Shadow Campus, a three-part investigative series focused on greed and mismanagement in Boston’s off-campus student housing market. The series was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.

He also spent two years at MuckRock, a news site dedicated to investigation and analysis of government documents. 

Craven covered Vermont’s U.S. congressional delegation for the Times Argus in the summer of 2014, and worked as a Metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune before joining the staff of VTDigger from 2015-2017.

Email: jcraven@vtdigger.org

Follow Jasper on Twitter @Jasper_Craven

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