Local Media File Amicus Brief Challenging Baltimore’s Police Misconduct Non-Disclosure Agreements

Baltimore Brew article (2018-06-01) reported that the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 19 news organizations, including the Washington PostBaltimore Sun, and the Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association, have filed an amicus brief supporting a case challenging the validity of Baltimore City’s use of non-disclosure agreements when settling police misconduct cases. The case could set a precedent for any local government that utilizes a non-disclosure agreement as part of a settlement and could potentially apply to other situations besides police misconduct.

The original case was brought by Baltimore Brew and Ashely Amaris Overbey. Overbey signed a non-disclosure agreement after settling with the City over alleged police misconduct and was later found to have violated that agreement after responding to social media comments about her experience. The violation cost Overbey half of her prior settlement. The U.S District Court upheld the agreement and dismissed Overbey’s claim. The case is on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

From the article:

The media brief argues that news reporting on police misconduct settlement claims is more accurate and fair when reporters can speak to complainants and learn the details of their agreements.

“Contrary to the district court’s assumption, it is not enough for news organizations to simply rely on civil complaints filed by victims in order to report these stories,” it argues.

“Without human sources to interpret and fill the gaps often left in documents, reporters cannot provide the public with the information it needs to decide how it wants its government to act.”