Consistently, media covering President Obama’s historic 2-day visit to Cuba has focused on the need for Cuba to clean up its human rights record if it truly wants to normalize relations with the U.S. While Cuba may have some shortcomings when it comes to its human rights record, the U.S. should be hesitant in its […]
Tag Archives | government repression
The government is collecting information on millions of citizens. Phone, Internet, and email habits, credit card and bank records—virtually all information that is communicated electronically is subject to the watchful eye of the state. The government is even building a nifty, 1.5 million square foot facility in Utah to house all of this data. With […]
Copwatching, sometimes called Police Watching, in its current incarnation is believed to have started in the early 1990’s in Berkeley, CA, but citizens have had their eye on cops throughout history. The group in Berkeley remains an authority in the area and they put together a handbook
Berkeley Copwatch has a list of resources to assist any potential Copwatcher. Other Copwatching groups exist in towns and cities across the United States and Canada, many of which have websites and databases of incidents. Copwatching groups are intended both to promote public safety and to ensure that police officers remain accountable for their actions. They are almost exclusively organized and operated by volunteers promoting citizen action.
Copwatching is somewhat less technical than Legal Observing and anyone can join a Copwatch group. Copwatchers are on the lookout for police brutality at all times, not just when a demonstration or protest is taking place. However, the goals of decreasing police brutality and keeping cops accountable for their actions against citizens are the same. They also practice careful documentation of any incidents.
Copwatchers also usually refrain from becoming physically involved in police-citizen altercations, but may use non-violent tactics to help assert the rights of a detained individual.
Resources and links for some of the more active Copwatch groups in the larger West Coast and Southwest cities can be found below.
This information has been compiled to give social justice activists a brief understanding of trademark and copyright law as it relates to common questions and concerns that arise in social justice organizing.
Winnemem Wintu 2012
In a major victory for the tribe, the Winnemem Wintu were finally given clearance to hold their coming of age ceremony in peace.
As a result of the incredible perseverance and unwavering commitment of the Winnemem Wintu tribe, along with the overwhelming show of solidarity that so many activists from around the country provided to the tribe, the US Forest Service had agreed to completely close the McCloud River for the 4 day ceremony June 29 – July 3, 2012.
The ceremony was held with minimal disruptions and no arrests. However, there was some harassment from the Forest Service and law enforcement, including the Chief receiving a citation. Why was she cited? For violating her own river closure!
Read more on the Tribe’s website.
After a Major Step Forward, It’s Not Over
Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk and her nephew Arron Sisk were fasting for weeks, demanding that the Bureau of Indian Affairs fully close the site for future Coming of Age ceremonies and protect the tribe’s girls and women from abuse and harassment from the general public.
While this one-time river closure was a significant step in acknowledging the tribe’s rights as Indigenous People, Randy Moore, Regional Forester said they can’t keep the general public from wandering through the ceremonial site because the tribe is not federally recognized. If the tribe was federally recognized, then federal law would give the Forest Service the authority to close the area for the ceremony. But, as it stands now, their hands are tied because of the BIA’s failure to include the tribe on their list.
We strive to educate the public, and particularly communities of color or other higher risk and vulnerable communities, by conducting “know your rights (KYR)” trainings throughout the country. Each workshop is tailored to the needs of the particular group of participants.
CLDC’s Executive Director, Lauren Regan, conducts speaking tours throughout the year on a variety of educational topics including: the USA PATRIOT Act, the Military Commissions Act, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, grand jury procedures, the Freedom of Information Act, and other threats to our civil liberties. The CLDC focuses on challenging and changing these statutes when they are used to censor or eliminate the rights of citizens engaged on political expression.
Ms. Regan has appeared numerous times on the national Democracy Now! program and is frequently quoted in over 250 national and local media outlets including Rolling Stone, the Guardian of London, the New York Times, and many more.
At the invitation of the National Lawyers Guild, Ms. Regan spoke in New York about “Green Scare” prosecutions; spoke at Yale University’s “Rebellious Lawyering Conference,” and recently the University of California Los Angeles Law School invited her to speak on the history of COINTELPRO, government repression, and activism.
Other Public Speaking Topics Include:
- The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act: The Law, Current Case Updates, and How to Save Animals in the Face of Government Repression.
- Navigating the Criminal Courts: A Guide for Activists and Lawyers.
- Women in Environmental Law: We’ve Come a Long Way Baby, But Are We Going Anywhere?
The CLDC offers these presentations to universities, civic groups, conferences, social change and environmental activists, conservatives, and religious groups.
To schedule a presentation, please contact us!
Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation
Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation, also known as SLAPP suits, ordinarily arise out of defamation lawsuits. Defamation is a common law tort whereby one citizen can sue another citizen for damage to reputation. The difference between an ordinary defamation lawsuit and a SLAPP suit is that the plaintiff in a SLAPP suit does not generally plan to actually win their lawsuit. Instead, SLAPP suits are intended to intimidate, censor, disparage, burden, and punish activists for exercising their right to free speech and protest. SLAPP suits are used against individuals who may have meager resources and are unable to afford the legal counsel necessary to help them protect their rights.
As one court has stated:
SLAPP suits function by forcing the target into the judicial arena where the SLAPP filer foists upon the target the expenses of a defense…The purpose of such gamesmanship ranges from simple retribution for past activism to discouraging future activism…Those who lack the financial resources and emotional stamina to play out the “game” face the difficult choice of defaulting despite meritorious defenses or being brought to their knees to settle…Persons who have been outspoken on issues of public importance targeted in such suits or who have witnessed such suits will often choose in the future to stay silent. Short of a gun to the head, a greater threat to First Amendment expression can scarcely be imagined.
Gordon v. Marrone, 590 N.Y.S. 2d 649, 656 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1992
The use of SLAPP suits as a harassment tool became so pervasive that beginning in the 1990’s, some states began adopting laws – commonly referred to as “anti-SLAPP” laws – to protect a citizen’s rights to engage in free speech. Not all of these laws are alike, but many of these anti-SLAPP laws offer defendants the opportunity to recoup their legal fees if they prove that they have been forced to defend themselves from a frivolous lawsuit. CLICK HERE to see if your state has anti-SLAPP laws and to get updates on progress of federal anti-SLAPP legislation. However, even if the defendant ultimately prevails with an anti-SLAPP suit, the defendant will likely have wasted multiple years defending their case. Thus, exoneration from a SLAPP suit, if it comes at all, will not come without years of time wasted on litigation and emotional turmoil, as well as the loss of thousands of dollars if a defendant is not lucky enough to live in the few states that have anti-SLAPP laws.
In the last twenty years, animal rights activists in particular have been a target of these suits, some for merely posting a blog on their personal website, and others for their acts of protest and political demonstration. The threat of these lawsuits is enough to make any social change advocate hesitate before expressing their opinion, in effect illegally chilling that individual’s exercise of the First Amendment.
CLDC is a national expert in defending activists and their campaigns from the threat of unconstitutional SLAPP suits. CLDC has a large brief bank and legal resources available for lawyers. If you are an attorney representing environmental or social change activists, please contact us. If you are an activist or organizer and a SLAPP suit has been filed against you, contact the CLDC immediately for assistance. In most states, you only have 30 days from when you were served with the lawsuit to file a response asserting constitutional defenses. CLDC provides trainings to activist campaigns on SLAPP suits.
Defamation in the Political Arena
Because the First Amendment protects our right to free speech, the common law legal claim of defamation can only be used against activity that is not protected speech under the Constitution. Essentially, there is no defamation of a public figure or concerning a matter of public concern unless the speaker knowingly and recklessly made a false statement with a “malicious intent” that caused injury to the affected individual. See New York Times Company & Ralph Abernathy et al. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964). However, in the realm of SLAPP suits, the corporations and individuals who file the lawsuits routinely ignore these Constitutional safeguards. For example, even though animal welfare advocacy is an issue of public interest that receives Constitutional protection, see e.g. Dienes v. Associated Newspapers, Inc., 137 Mich. App. 272, 276, SLAPP suits against animal welfare advocates may be filed and proceed for years without any proof that statements made against them were false or made with a reckless disregard for the truth.
Animal Welfare Advocacy SLAPP suits
Letter to Editor in Scientific Journal:
Immuno A.G. v. Moor-Jankowski, 77 N.Y.2d 235, 567 N.E.2d 1270 (1991)(PDF)
In 1983, Dr. Shirley McGreal, who was chair of the International Primate Protection League, submitted a letter to the editor of the Journal of Medical Primatology. The letter criticized Immuno AG, a multinational corporation based in Austria, and their plans to establish a facility in Sierra Leone in order to conduct hepatitis research using chimpanzees. In January of 1983, Dr. J. Moor-Jankowski, the editor of the journal, submitted a copy of the letter to the corporation for comment or reply and specifically stated that the journal would not publish the letter if the allegations could be proven false. The corporation never provided proof that the allegations were false, and the journal eventually published the letter.
In December of 1984, the corporation sued the author of the letter, the editor of the journal, and six other defendants. As the New York high court stated in its opinion eventually dismissing the case after seven years of litigation, the case was a “libel action against the editor of a scientific journal, essentially for his publication of a signed letter to the editor on a subject of public controversy.” Although the lawsuit had initially been filed against eight defendants for two separate publications, the time and money-consuming litigation eventually exhausted seven of the defendants to the point that they paid off the corporation with “substantial sums” to be freed from the litigation. The editor of the journal was the only surviving fighter and had to endure seven years of litigation, including appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, his own 14 day deposition, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal expenses. To the chagrin of all of the defendants who agreed to settle with the corporation, the New York high court ultimately dismissed the lawsuit because most of the statements were Constitutionally protected as statements of personal opinion. Additionally, the corporation failed to prove that any of the factual statements were actually false.
Starting in 2005, animal welfare advocates held weekly protests outside of Schumacher Furs and Outerwear, a retail store in Portland, Oregon. The protests usually involved a few dozen activists who would hold up signs with anti-fur messages, chant slogans, and play videos on portable televisions depicting animals being tortured and skinned alive for their fur. After two years of these weekly protests and public education campaigns that were successfully encouraging the public to choose more humane way to clothe themselves, Schumacher sued the City of Portland, In Defense of Animals, Animal Liberation Front, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc., and several individuals, for claims of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Interference with Business Relations, Interference with Contract, Public Nuisance, and Trespass. The company argued that the city was a necessary party because it had allegedly failed to protect the company from illegal protest activity. The company requested damages from the city in the amount of $6.2 million, and from all the other parties for $6.6 million each. Although there was evidence of illegal conduct related to the protests, the company had no evidence that any of the named defendants were responsible for illegal conduct. Accordingly, the activists asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit under Oregon’s anti-SLAPP law, ORS 31.150.
Application of RICO to Animal Welfare Organizations
The court refused the company’s request to impute illegal conduct to the activists, stating “I find it was not objectively reasonable to sue the organizations and individuals [that] Plaintiffs were able to identify at the protests, or whose publications were identified as in the case of PETA, on the hunch that those organizations and individuals must be involved in the illegal activities of other protestors Plaintiffs could not identify. . . I granted the Motions to Strike because Plaintiffs did not produce evidence the prevailing defendants did anything illegal.” Additionally, the court vigorously chastised the company for filing a SLAPP suit:
Although Plaintiffs may have had meritorious claims against people whose names they did not know, or even against the City of Portland, they sued people against whom they had no evidence for $6.6 million, sought to restrict their First Amendment speech rights, and disparaged their reputations with accusations of criminal conduct, terrorist affiliations, and responsibility for “shutting down” a business whose financial solvency was questionable before the protesting activities began. This was an extraordinary abuse of the litigation process. . . . I find that awarding fees in this case will properly serve to deter putative plaintiffs from filing multi-million dollar suits against non-profit groups and private citizens engaged in First Amendment activities . . . .
Accordingly, the court dismissed the suit, and awarded legal expenses to the activists in the amount of almost $100,000.00.
Comins v. VanVoorhis, Case No. 2009 CA 15047-0 (PDF)
(9th Judicial District Circuit Court, Orange County, Florida)
In 2008, a blogger named Matthew VanVoorhis posted a YouTube video link to a video of a man named Chris Comins shooting two dogs, along with two articles expressing his concern, anger, and opinion on the incident. Comins was later charged with two counts of felony animal abuse for this incident. Despite the video documentation of the event and the pending felony charges, Comins sued VanVoorhis for defamation and “tortuous interference with a business relationship,” and has requested an unspecified amount of damages that at least exceed $15,000. Comins argues that the blog postings “contain numerous factual inaccuracies, gross exaggerations and damaging statements regarding Plaintiff and the incident.” He argues that the “blog posts are designed to incite violence and pose an imminent threat to Plaintiff and employees of his company.” Van Voorhis has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and has filed counter claims in the lawsuit arguing that the lawsuit violates his First Amendment rights.
In 1970, Congress enacted the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. § 1961, ostensibly to curtail the criminal activities of the mafia. In the forty years since RICO was enacted, the application of the law has extended far beyond the activities of loansharks and the “Don,” and into Constitutionally protected protest activities. Over time, the federal courts have gradually made the original intent of RICO – i.e. stopping the criminal activities of the mafia – less and less significant. Instead, the courts have issued interpretations of RICO that consistently ignore this intent and allow the law to be used as a way to silence advocates for social change. Animal welfare organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), as well as many others have been victims of RICO prosecutions.
Thus, RICO has degenerated into a weapon that government and industry actors can use against advocates for social change – a weapon that can inflict millions of dollars in court fees and fines, as well as potential jail time, for mere acts of protest. Organizations and individuals that engage in protest for social change, especially protest against businesses and corporations that exploit animals, are now exposed to the threat of RICO charges, fines, and incarceration. Undoubtedly, this application of RICO results in a chilling effect on all of our First Amendment rights.
In 1950, the U.S. Attorney General held a conference that explored growing national concern with the increased criminal activities and influence of the mafia. As a result of the conference, several committees were formed to develop a legal strategy to address this concern. These committees recommended legislation that would act as a broad net to catch all possible criminal activity committed by mafia members. In 1970, Congress enacted RICO as Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act. The law contains a long, broad list of activities that qualify as “racketeering,” and thus as federal crimes under RICO if the government can establish a “pattern” of more than one such act.
A violation of RICO can lead to a prison sentence of 20 years to life, as well as fines and permanent government seizure of personal property. In addition to these criminal penalties from the government, the “victim” business/individual in a RICO case may also file a civil lawsuit to recover three times the money damages actually incurred (referred to as “treble damages”), as well as attorneys’ fees, for itself. These treble damages and attorneys’ fees provisions are attractive to businesses and individuals looking to collect huge payoffs.
RICO’s broad definition of racketeering has allowed the Act to be consistently misused and applied to advocates for social change with no connection whatsoever to the mafia and organized crime. Often the purported basis for applying RICO to these political activists is that their activities fall within the loose definition of “extortion” under section 1961.
The Evolution of RICO “Extortion”
Generally, courts will look to a federal law known as the Hobbs Act in order to determine if a criminal act qualifies as an act of extortion. The Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, defines extortion as “obtaining of property from another, without his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.” The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted this definition to apply even if the alleged extortionist doesn’t actually receive a direct benefit by obtaining the property at issue, United States v. Green, 350 U.S. 415 (1956), and even if the alleged extortionist does not have any economic motive to commit the action, see Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc., 547 U.S. 9, 14-15 (2006). However, the U.S. Supreme Court has also held that extortion must still include some actual obtaining of property.
See Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc., 547 U.S. 9 15 (2006).
Application of RICO to Animal Welfare Organizations
Undercover investigation of animal testing laboratory
The initial expansion of RICO primarily affected anti-abortion protestors engaged in physically violent attacks on abortion clinics. However, in 1997, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) became the first advocacy group that was not an anti-abortion group to be sued under RICO. Huntingdon Life Sciences – a business that engages in controversial exploitative animal testing practices such as live dissection and aggressive physical abuse of captive domestic animals – filed a civil RICO lawsuit against PETA after PETA publicly exposed the company’s extraordinarily cruel practices.
Huntingdon Life Sciences alleged that PETA had engaged in a “pattern of racketeering activity” prohibited by RICO by (1) conducting undercover investigations of its animal testing laboratories, including most recently an eight month undercover investigation in one of the company’s New Jersey laboratories, and then (2) publicly releasing video footage and other documentation of the incredibly cruel and abusive practices observed by the PETA investigator.
See Huntingdon Life Sciences, Inc. v. Rokke, 986 F. Supp. 982, 984 -985 (E.D. VA. 1997)
The practices documented by the PETA investigator included breaking the legs of domestic dogs and then administering osteoporosis drugs to the dogs to see how the bones healed. The tapes also showed workers routinely slamming monkeys into cages, and suspending monkeys in mid-air while pumping test substances into their stomachs. One technician stuffed a lotion bottle into a monkey’s mouth as a “joke.” Perhaps the most alarming was a video that showed a terrified and alert monkey kicking and screaming as it was being strapped down to an operating table. Although the monkey was given some sedatives, it was still conscious as lab technicians cut its body open and removed its organs.
When PETA released these videos to the media, the public immediately let Huntingdon Life Sciences know that its cruel and exploitative practices were outrageous and unacceptable. Companies that had commissioned Huntingdon Life Sciences to test their products cancelled their contracts and investors dumped their stocks, resulting in losses of millions of dollars to the corporation. PETA had also turned over the videotapes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA performed a subsequent investigation of Huntingdon Life Science’s laboratory practices, and ended up charging the facility with 23 counts of violating the Animal Welfare Act. See In Defense of Animals v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 656 F.Supp.2d 68, 82 (D.D.C. 2009) (court ordering that USDA and Huntingdon Life Sciences had to disclose the records of this investigation to the public under the federal Freedom of Information Act because “defendants have failed to justify the withholding of the records”).
After filing the RICO lawsuit, Huntingdon Life Sciences convinced the court to issue a gag order to stop PETA from publicly disseminating the results of its investigation, and the court held PETA in contempt of court for allegedly violating this order. When PETA then asked the court to dismiss the RICO claims, the court refused its request, finding that the “eight month investigation by Rokke [PETA’s investigator] and the subsequent transportation of documents for use in press releases and direct mailings” were sufficient acts to constitute crimes of “racketeering” that amounted to a “pattern of racketeering” under RICO when considered in conjunction with past PETA investigations. More specifically, the court found that the acts of the PETA investigator that fit within the scope of RICO were that she “(1) participated in the interstate transportation of documents stolen from Huntingdon” and “(2) violated the Travel Act by traveling to Ohio to promote the extortionate scheme . . . .” Apparently, the court was referring to the undercover investigation in general as the “extortionate scheme.” The case eventually settled out of court.
In 1999, Jacques Ferber, Inc., a furrier located in Philadelphia, filed the second RICO civil lawsuit against animal welfare organizations and several individual animal rights advocates alleging that the groups had engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity that included conspiring to shut down the furrier. Jacques Ferber, Inc. v. Bateman et al., Civ. No. 99-2277 (E.D. PA 1999). The lawsuit alleged that the weekly protests that the activists had participated in for four years were “interfering with his legitimate business enterprise” and this amounted to a federal crime of conspiracy and racketeering under RICO. Although there was evidence that individual protestors had broken windows, poured acid on windows, and glued the store’s front entrance shut, there was no evidence of which individual protesters had committed the acts, or that any of the named defendant organizations were in any way responsible for these activities. In addition to alleging extortionate vandalism in their lawsuit, the company also alleged that the activists had disseminated “defamatory stickers and signs” outside of the store, as part of their effort to “interfere with business.” These “defamatory stickers and signs” were used as one of the predicate acts that constituted the larger “extortionate scheme,” and the company sought $50,000 in damages for stickers and signs alone. In response to the lawsuit, the activists agreed to refrain from property destruction, property defacement, trespassing, or disorderly conduct in connection with lawful demonstrations, entering the store or residence of the company’s employees, attempting to initiate communicate with minor children of the company’s employees, blocking access to the store, committing other illegal activities, and from encouraging other to commit any of these activities. The case was then dismissed.
Circus Elephant Abuse Protest
Nearly 15 years after the first RICO case was filed against animal welfare activists, RICO is still being used against these activists. In 2010, Feld Entertainment, Inc., the company that owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, filed a federal civil RICO lawsuit against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Animal Welfare Institute, the Fund for Animals, the Animal Protection Institute, former circus elephant keeper turned elephant welfare advocate Tom Rider, and leading animal law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal. The lawsuit alleges that “In order to bring a philosophical debate into federal court to advance a radical ‘animal rights’ agenda and in order to garner publicity and raise money to support their various activities, defendants , acting in concert with their attorneys, , devised and participated in an illegal and fraudulent pattern of actions to circumvent well established limits on the Article III jurisdiction of the federal courts.” See complaint PETA vs FELD.
Essentially, the company argues that that these animal rights groups and their attorneys participated in a pattern of racketeering activity that includes bribery, paid witnesses, and mail fraud across interstate lines in the process of litigating a case against the company to protect Asian elephants under the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act lawsuit alleges that Ringling Bros.’ routine beating of elephants with bull hooks, and its chaining of elephants for long periods of time constitute the unlawful “take” of these endangered animals in violation of the Endangered Species Act. See ESA Complaint. In February – March, 2009, the U.S. District Court for D.C. held a six-week long trial of the case challenging Ringling Bros.’ treatment of Asian elephants in the circus. Several former Ringling Bros. employees testified that the circus routinely strikes elephants with sharp bull hooks and keeps the elephants chained for the majority of their lives. The plaintiffs submitted voluminous evidence, including internal FEI documents and USDA documents, supporting their claims, and some of the world’s leading experts on elephants testified that Ringling Bros.’ routine practices “wound,” “harm,” and “harass” the elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The case is currently on appeal in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In addition to the apparently retaliatory RICO lawsuit, Feld Entertainment, Inc. has a history of attempting to dismantle animal rights groups that campaign to expose its cruel treatment of circus animals. In the past, Feld Entertainment has teamed up with the CIA and spent millions of dollars in an attempt to infiltrate animal welfare groups like PETA and In Defense of Animals. See complaint PETA V FELD (PDF). Operatives illegally recorded conversations and obtained highly confidential bank account numbers and bank information, credit card information, confidential internal financial records, and personnel information.
The Green Scare is the federal government’s ongoing prosecution of environmental and animal rights activists. The name relates to the Red Scare of the 1940’s and 1950’s. It includes the government, corporations, and politicians labeling activists as “ecoterrorists” and national security threats and giving them to long prison sentences.
You can read more about it in Rebecca K. Smith’s article “Ecoterrorism”, a Critical Analysis of the Vilification of Radical Environmental Actitists as Terrorists
For many it has come to be represented by Operation Backfire, the Shac7, Eric McDavid, Rod Coronado, Tre Arrow, and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
“A massive and prolonged effort to change the social, political, and economic structure of a local environment cannot be characterized as a violent conspiracy simply by reference to the ephemeral consequences of relatively few violent acts.”
Justice John Paul Stevens.
NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, 458 U.S. 886, 933 (1982)
Dealing with Grand Juries
In light of most recent events, Activists need to know how to protect themselves. Here you will find a list of helpful materials surrounding Grand Juries. Please contact us if there is something more that you would like to see on this page.
Grand Jury tools:
- Trainer’s Script
- Fact Sheet
- Model GJ Charge
- Summons GJ Service
- Handbook for Fed GJurors
- Fed Court Cover Letter
- Empanel Order of Court
The public is entitled to limited information about any current grand jury. To obtain that information, you need to send a public records request to the Clerk of the Court for the federal court where the grand jury is taking place. Below please find a template for the information that is normally provided by the Courts. This information will provide you with (1) the date the grand jury began (empaneled) so that you can determine when the grand jury period will expire (unless extended); (2) how often the grand jury is scheduled to meet; (3) whether it is a regular or special grand jury; (4) whether there are any special jury instructions the Court provided to the grand jury to use while determining whether an indictment should issue.
Dear Clerk of the Court:
I am requesting public information regarding the current empaneled federal grand jury in the [Western Washington District.] Specifically, I would like the Court Order directing empanelment of the grand jury, the letter to prospective grand jurors, and any special jury instructions issued by the Judge.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. Time is of the essence, and thus I would appreciate this information as soon as possible.
Thank you very much for your time,
(your name here)