The National Freedom of Information Coalition has received a $180,000 grant to support freedom of information litigation, NFOIC Executive Director Charles Davis said today at the group's annual meeting in Arlington, Va.
Davis said the NFOIC had already used some of the money, from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, to support lawsuits in several states. He said the grants were for up to $5,000 for "up-front costs" such as depositions, filing fees and witnesses. Davis said the terms of the grant does not allow payment of attorney's fees, but the guarantee that such expenses will be paid had already encouraged law firms to offer free attorney time. "As long as they're sure they won't be dipping into their wallets to pay fees, a lot of firms are more willing to offer attorneys," Davis said, adding that two suits were settled as soon as the defendants found out about the grants.
The funds are intended to help small, local newspapers and citizens' groups that can't afford to file such lawsuits, Davis said. Grant applications must be made through state groups, such as Kentucky Citizens for Open Government, and NFOIC says it will process them within days.