GFAF founder Post inducted into national Open Government Hall of Fame

Hyde Post, who helped found the Georgia First Amendment Foundation in 1994, was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Coalition’s Open Government Hall of Fame April 13 at the organization’s annual FOI Summit in Dallas.

Hyde Post named to National Freedom of Information Coalition Hall of Fame

The honor reflects Post’s long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of public information that is vital to democracy.

“This is well-deserved recognition for one of Georgia’s strongest champions of government transparency,” said Georgia First Amendment Foundation President Richard T. Griffiths. “It honors Hyde’s commitment to robust open meetings and open records laws.”

Post established GFAF’s pattern of collaborating with public officials to publish guides to open government and transparency in law enforcement. He also led the organization’s efforts to educate lawmakers about the importance of preserving and strengthening public access to government meetings, proceedings and records.

Post’s passion for public access to government emerged through his work as a journalist. Projects he directly oversaw for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution won two Pulitzer prizes. He used his platform at the AJC to advocate for openness and transparency in the halls of government and in the courts. His résumé gave credibility to the Georgia First Amendment Foundation in its early days, and his leadership ensured the organization’s influence for more than two decades.

Post also furthered the open government cause nationally, serving as president of NFOIC from 2009 to 2012. He was instrumental in bringing together state open government organizations to strengthen their collective impact.

Post is now retired from journalism and has stepped down from leadership roles at GFAF and NFOIC, but  he continues to support government transparency as a member of GFAF’s board of directors.

The NFOIC State Open Government Hall of Fame began in 2003. Inductees from 14 states have been honored for their dedication to protecting citizens’ rights. Post is one of four inductees in the 2019 Hall of Fame class. Joining him are South Dakota journalist Brian Hunhoff, Texas attorney and legislative advocate Laura Lee Prather and California open records advocate Richard P. McKee.

The recognition highlights Post’s government transparency legacy, Griffiths said.

“The generally positive climate in Georgia toward open and transparent government reflects Hyde’s tireless work,” he said. “Georgia’s public officials simply would not have the same respect for open government if it had not been for Hyde’s thoughtful advocacy.”

Georgia First Amendment Foundation names Judge James Bodiford 2018 Weltner Award honoree

Cobb County senior judge recognized for keeping courts open during some of the state’s highest-profile criminal cases.

Cobb County Superior Court Senior Judge James Bodiford has earned a reputation for protecting the public’s right to courtroom access while presiding over some of Georgia’s highest-profile criminal cases. Rather than restrict the public and media from attending those trials, Bodiford made provisions to keep the proceedings open — and maintained an orderly courtroom. He encourages other judges to open their courtrooms, as well, arguing that our judicial system works best when it’s accessible and transparent to citizens.

Judge James Bodiford

The open-courts commitment Bodiford has upheld over his more than 30-year career is why the Georgia First Amendment Foundation is honoring him with our 2018 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award. Bodiford will receive the award at the foundation’s annual Weltner Banquet at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 17, at the Silverbell Pavilion of the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta.

A prime example of Bodiford’s dedication to courtroom access was the State of Georgia v. Ray Brent Marsh. In 2002, a tip led investigators to a northwest Georgia crematory where 334 corpses were discovered. Marsh, the crematory operator, was charged, and a local judge immediately entered a sweeping gag order that created chaos. Hundreds of families from three states were desperate for information about the remains of their loved ones, and people across the country closely followed the case.

The gag order left the Georgia Bureau of Investigation unable to provide basic information to families and the public. Bodiford was asked to take control of the case, and one of his first acts was to announce that he would be handling it in an open way, giving law enforcement and the media the latitude needed to keep the public informed. National, state and local media reported on every hearing. The public had full visibility into the legal process, which ultimately resulted in a plea that sent Marsh to prison.

Bodiford stayed true to these First Amendment principles in other high-profile cases, as well, including the murder trials of courthouse shooter Brian Nichols; Lynn Turner, who poisoned her husband with anti-freeze; and Fred Tokars, a one-time Atlanta lawyer and prosecutor who had his wife executed by a hit man in front of his young children. Bodiford kept proceedings open, gavel to gavel, amid constant media coverage. As the jury heard evidence, so did the public — a demonstration of the power of open courtrooms.

Bodiford’s record reflects an understanding of how modern media coverage provides a tremendous opportunity for the judiciary to make court proceedings more accessible and understandable to citizens. Even under the harsh scrutiny of high-profile trials, his commitment to transparency has not wavered.

A Cobb County native, Bodiford stepped down from daily trial work in 2014 and began serving as a senior judge. In addition to educating Georgia judges about the importance of courtroom access, he has traveled to Estonia, Bosnia and the Republic of Georgia to teach judges in those countries about how the American justice system works.

Learn more about GFAF’s Weltner Award, named for the late Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles L. Weltner, an unyielding champion of government transparency, and see a list of past honorees.

Double your membership dollars — join now!

Our platinum sponsor CNN has pledged to match new member contributions — including membership fees — up to $5,000 before Dec. 31. So, you can multiply your support of the crucial open government and free speech work we do simply by joining now.

Memberships start at $50 for individuals and $100 for organizations. Benefits include open records and meetings training; legislative updates on key First Amendment issues; and connecting with other Georgia First Amendment Foundation members and supporters. Become a member today!

Join us for an evening with Motion Picture Association’s Chris Dodd

ONLINE TICKET SALES ENDED. Individual tickets are now available for this year’s annual Weltner Banquet, hosted by the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. We’ll be awarding the Motion Picture Association of chris_dodd1-1024x682America the Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award for leadership in improving free speech protections in Georgia. Former U.S. Senator and MPAA Chairman and CEO Chris Dodd will accept the award and speak about the Motion Picture Association’s deep commitment to free speech and current threats to that fundamental right.

Dodd will be introduced by Wyche Fowler, a former U.S. senator from Georgia and chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Charles Weltner.

We hope you will join us at the event, which takes place at:

6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13
Silverbell Pavilion of the Emory Conference Center
1615 Clifton Road N.E., Atlanta, GA 30329.

To learn more about the event, visit our website.

To purchase a table, email or call Becky Cesario, 678-395-3618. (Deadline  Oct. 9)

Weltner Award: Foundation honors Motion Picture Association as free speech leader

This year the General Assembly passed the most effective legislative protection of free speech rights in Georgia in 20 years. It was a major First Amendment victory for Georgians, bolstering their right to comment on matters of public concern. But it happened with little public attention, and it came about because of the concerted efforts of an often-unheralded First Amendment champion: the Motion Picture Association of America.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation is honoring the Motion Picture Association’s leadership role in building a coalition that helped persuade state lawmakers to strengthen free speech laws. The foundation has named MPAA as its recipient of the 2016 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award.

chris_dodd1-1024x682Former U.S. senator and MPAA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Chris Dodd will come to Atlanta on Oct. 13 to accept the award at the foundation’s annual Weltner Banquet.

“The MPAA is honored to receive the Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s Weltner Freedom of Information Award,” Dodd said. “We are proud of our longstanding commitment to promoting First Amendment freedoms. We consistently resist calls for government censorship and work every single day to protect filmmakers’ rights to tell their stories. Georgia’s new, stronger free speech law safeguards those rights.”

To attend, complete and email the sponsorship form.

For more information about Weltner Banquet sponsorships, please contact GFAF Executive Director Hollie Manheimer,, 404-759-3646; or Becky Cesario,, 678-395-3618.

The Motion Picture Association’s work under the Gold Dome led to increased legal protections against so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs. The result: Deep-pocketed plaintiffs now have a much tougher time sustaining groundless defamation and other claims designed to chill free speech in Georgia.

“It was an extraordinary First Amendment triumph, particularly during a time when such essential constitutional rights are under threat,” said Georgia First Amendment Foundation Executive Director Hollie Manheimer. “The Motion Picture Association was instrumental in pushing for these free speech protections that benefit everyone in Georgia.”

The state’s previous anti-SLAPP statute was enacted in 1996 and was narrowly interpreted to protect statements made to governmental bodies or linked to official proceedings. This year’s House Bill 513, sponsored by state Rep. Ron Stephens of Savannah, expanded protection to all speech—and related conduct—on all matters of public concern. It also included provisions for prompt appellate review and mandatory award of attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party. The legislation became law on July 1, ensuring Georgia courts are places of protection, not harassment, for the exercise of free speech.

The Motion Picture Association’s First Amendment advocacy stretches back to its founding in 1922. The association consistently fights to make sure films and other creative works are afforded full free speech rights.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s Freedom of Information Award is named for Charles L. Weltner, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court who championed freedom of information and ethics in state government. The annual Weltner Banquet provides financial support for the foundation’s narrow and essential mission: fighting for free speech, government transparency and access to public information in Georgia.

Media contact: Hollie Manheimer, Executive Director, Georgia First Amendment Foundation

Phone: 404 -759-3646


Twitter: @GA1stAmendFound