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Vox Hawkeye A Study in the Intellectual Call for Open Government (and How One State Heeded It)
Unformatted Document Text:  In the wake of such decisions and assorted pronouncements from the high bench, other scholars have advanced more general governmental interests, the nature of which would still serve to outweigh efforts to compel openness under a First Amendment theory. According to Bok, these generalized interests include: 1. The need for open exchange among officials. This argument holds that if every meeting or memo were open for public inspection, government workers would be much more circumspect in their expressed opinions, thus inhibiting creative views and novel approaches that might ultimately--when refined through robust debate--best serve the public. 30 2. The legitimate need for surprise. The decision to launch criminal investigations is a strong example on point, but the need for surprise also extends to taking pains to keep certain private groups from learning information they could use to their personal benefit at the public's expense. 31 3. The need to protect innocent parties. The government compels many groups and individuals to submit personal data in order to get licenses, receive certain benefits, etc. Thus, there must exist a duty on the part of the government to protect this involuntarily supplied information from outsiders. 32 Not surprisingly, Branzburg was not a hit among the media. However, its basic contention that the First Amendment does not supply an affirmative right of access or a preferred position for the press resonated positively with at least a few scholars, one of whom, O'Brien, argues that for such a right to be strongly manifested it must have a sound grounding not only in the history of the amendment but also in sound policy as well. On the first part, O'Brien contended that there is nothing in the documents, discussions or collateral effects of the Constitutional Convention, or of the subsequent ratification debates, which even hints at the possibility that the right-to-know/right-of-access was subsumed within the First Amendment. 33 30 Bok, 175. 31 Ibid, 176. 32 Ibid. 33 David M. O’Brien, The Public’s Right to Know: The Supreme Court and the First Amendment (New York: Praeger, 1981), 53.

Authors: stepanek, steve.
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In the wake of  such decisions and assorted pronouncements from the high bench,  other scholars 
have advanced more general governmental interests, the nature of which would still serve to outweigh 
efforts to compel openness under a First Amendment theory.  According to Bok, these generalized 
interests include:
1. The need for open exchange among officials. This argument holds that if every 
meeting or memo were open for public inspection, government workers would be much 
more circumspect in their expressed opinions, thus inhibiting creative views and novel 
approaches that might ultimately--when refined through robust debate--best serve the 
public.
2. The legitimate need for surprise.  The decision to launch criminal investigations is a 
strong example on point, but the need for surprise also extends to taking pains to keep 
certain private groups from learning information they could use to their personal benefit 
at the public's expense.
3. The need to protect innocent parties.  The government compels many groups and 
individuals to submit personal data in order to get licenses, receive certain benefits, etc. 
Thus, there must exist a duty on the part of the government to protect this involuntarily 
supplied information from outsiders.
Not surprisingly, Branzburg was not a hit among the media.  However, its basic contention that 
the First Amendment does not supply an affirmative right of access or a preferred position for the press 
resonated positively with at least a few scholars, one of whom, O'Brien, argues that for such a right to be 
strongly manifested it must have a sound grounding not only in the history of the amendment but also in 
sound policy as well.
On the first part, O'Brien contended that there is nothing in the documents, discussions or 
collateral effects of the Constitutional Convention, or of the subsequent ratification debates, which even 
hints at the possibility that the right-to-know/right-of-access was subsumed within the First Amendment.
30
 Bok, 175.
31
 Ibid, 176.
32
 Ibid.
33
 David M. O’Brien, The Public’s Right to Know: The Supreme Court and the First Amendment (New York: 
Praeger, 1981), 53.


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