Donors pledge more than $136,000 in great show of support for the foundation’s open government mission

Contributions announced at Oct. 17 Weltner Award Banquet will help educate Georgians on the public’s right to access public documents, meetings and proceedings.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation has received pledges, sponsorships and individual donations adding up to more than $136,000 — a robust display of support for protecting and expanding open government in our state.

Cobb Judge James Bodiford, with Jim Zachary (L) and Amelia Weltner

The funds were contributed in conjunction with the foundation’s annual Weltner Award Banquet on Oct. 17. The banquet, which honored Cobb County Superior Court Senior Judge James Bodiford, was one of the nonprofit’s most successful fundraisers ever, attracting more than 120 attendees and 11 event sponsors.

During the banquet, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News announced an $80,000 donation that the foundation will use to provide open government training across Georgia.

In addition, the Department of Journalism at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication announced a generous donation through its William S. Morris Chair in News Strategy and Management. The university will provide $10,000 to update the foundation’s popular open government guidebooks. The Georgia Press Association also is contributing $1,000 toward the guidebook revisions.

“In a time when trust in government is at all time lows, transparency is one of the best tools for building trust,” said Richard T. Griffiths, president of the foundation’s board of directors. “We intend for these funds to be used to provide training in Atlanta and throughout the state for the public, journalists and government officials. That means, in particular, we will be in a position to help the City of Atlanta as it builds out its extraordinary openness initiative.”

Donation emerges from settlement with city

The AJC, Channel 2 and the City of Atlanta recently settled a complaint that the newsrooms filed in April with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. The complaint alleged “a culture of political interference” with open records requests under the administration of former mayor, Kasim Reed. Under terms of the settlement, the city council and new Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms agreed to take substantial steps to increase transparency and also to pay the news organizations $80,000 as partial reimbursement of legal fees. That settlement money will fund the news organizations’ donation to the foundation.

Alex Taylor, chief executive officer of Cox Enterprises, parent company of the news outlets, said in a statement, “We couldn’t be more proud of the team at WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for its watchdog reporting on this incredibly important matter and proving, once again, that local journalism matters.

“The First Amendment and state laws such as the Georgia Open Records Act are essential to our democracy and freedom as citizens because they enable us to see how our government works,” Taylor said. “We support the Georgia First Amendment Foundation in its mission to hold our public officials accountable and demand transparency in government.”

Honoring commitment to courtroom access

At the banquet, Bodiford accepted the foundation’s 2018 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award, making him the 17th honoree to receive the award. It was presented by Amelia Weltner, granddaughter of the late Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles L. Weltner, an unyielding champion of government transparency for whom the award is named.

The foundation recognized Bodiford for his 30-year commitment to protecting the public’s right to courtroom access. The Cobb senior judge kept his courtroom open while presiding over some of Georgia’s highest-profile criminal cases.

In his keynote speech, Bodiford encouraged other judges to remember that the judicial system needs “the confidence of the public” to succeed. “The more they know, the better they’ll feel about it,” he said.

>>> Watch WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News report, read The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s article about the donation and check out the Daily Report’s coverage of the foundation’s 2018 Weltner Award Banquet.

Join us: Weltner Freedom of Information Award Banquet, Oct. 17

Sponsorship opportunities and tickets available now — join us to celebrate and support open government in Georgia.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s annual Weltner Freedom of Information Award Banquet is the greatest source of financial support for our narrow and essential mission: fighting for free speech, government transparency and access to public information in Georgia.

Our 2018 banquet is scheduled at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 17, at the Silverbell Pavilion of the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta.

We will honor Cobb County Superior Court Senior Judge James Bodiford as recipient of our 2018 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award. 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.

Join us by buying individual tickets, or become a sponsor and invite your colleagues and friends. Sponsorship benefits extend beyond the banquet and are at four levels:

  • Platinum—Eight tickets with preferred VIP seating for the dinner, premium recognition as a host, including signage and a full page in the program; all benefits of being an institutional GFAF member, including legislative updates and one complimentary open government workshop for your organization or company, $10,000.
  • Gold— Eight tickets with preferred VIP seating for the dinner, premium recognition as a host, including signage and a full page in the program, $5,000.
  • Silver—Six tickets for the dinner, recognition and signage, and a half-page in the program, $2,500.
  • Bronze—Four tickets for the dinner, recognition and signage and a quarter-page in the program, $1,500.

For information about becoming a 2018 Weltner sponsor, please call Lenora Kopkin at 678-395-3618 or email info@gfaf.org.

The Weltner Banquet and the foundation’s annual Freedom of Information Award are 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 award honors his commitment to open, transparent government.

See photos from our 2017 banquet and a list of past Weltner Award winners at gfaf.org.

 

Special rate for 2017 Weltner Banquet

Join us Oct. 19 to celebrate and support the public’s right to know.

We appreciate your support of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s open government mission. To show our appreciation, we’re inviting you to join us Oct. 19 at the 2017 Weltner Freedom of Information Award Banquet at a special Friends of the First Amendment rate of $100 — a 60 percent discount off our regular individual ticket rate.

It’s unusual for us to offer a special rate for individual tickets to our Weltner Banquet, the foundation’s most important fundraising event. But as we mark the banquet’s 16th anniversary this year, the time is right. Over the past two years, and particularly in just the last few months, we’ve drawn interest from many more individual supporters. We want to make it possible for anyone who believes in our mission to join us for this annual celebration of open government successes — and to invest in our ongoing fight for government transparency and free speech.

You’ll find our Oct. 19 banquet inspiring. We are presenting the 2017 Weltner Award to the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program. Program Director Laura Neuman, our keynote speaker, will tell us how access to public information is transforming citizens’ lives worldwide. She will be introduced by Carter Center Chief Executive Officer Mary Ann Peters, former U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh.

We’re also honoring the late Fulton County Superior Court Judge Stephanie B. Manis with our Open Government Hero Award. Manis, who died in December, was an unwavering advocate of open records and open meetings and proceedings during her years in the Office of the Georgia Attorney General and on the bench. U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen will offer a tribute to Manis, his longtime friend and former colleague.

The banquet takes place at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 19, at the Silverbell Pavilion of the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta. Citizens, elected officials, journalists, judges, attorneys, members of the foundation’s board of directors and other First Amendment advocates will be there to celebrate and support the foundation’s crucial and narrow mission. The Georgia First Amendment Foundation is the state’s only organization completely committed to the public’s right to know.

Secure your seat by buying a Weltner Banquet ticket today. Or, if you can’t join us at the event, make a donation to support our open government mission. We cannot do this important work without you.

For information about becoming a 2017 Weltner sponsor, please call Lenora Kopkin 678-395-3618 or email info@gfaf.org.

SAVE THE DATE: Weltner Freedom of Information Award Banquet, Oct. 19

Event to honor the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program and the late Judge Stephanie B. Manis of Fulton County Superior Court.

The Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program works to improve governance and transform citizens’ lives worldwide by providing governments with actionable advice and technical assistance that increase transparency and help citizens exercise their fundamental right to information. The Georgia First Amendment Foundation is honoring that important work by naming the Atlanta-based program as recipient of the 2017 Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award.

The foundation also is honoring the late Fulton County Superior Court Judge Stephanie B. Manis with its Open Government Hero Award. Manis, who died in December, was an unwavering advocate of open records and open meetings during her years in the Office of the Georgia Attorney General and on the bench.

Both awards will be presented during the foundation’s annual Weltner evening banquet on Oct. 19 at the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta.

Laura Neuman, director of the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program, will accept the Weltner Freedom of Information Award and serve as the event’s keynote speaker. Manis’ family will accept the Open Government Hero Award in her honor.

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.

For information about becoming a 2017 banquet sponsor, please email info@gfaf.org.

Invest in the First Amendment—become a Weltner Banquet sponsor today

Reserve space now for the Weltner Freedom of Information Award Banquet, Oct. 19.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s annual Weltner Banquet is the greatest source of financial support for our narrow and essential mission: fighting for free speech, government transparency and access to public information in Georgia.

This year’s event, scheduled at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 19, at the Silverbell Pavilion of the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta, will honor the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program and the late Judge Stephanie B. Manis of Fulton County Superior Court.

Welter sponsorships are at four levels:

  • Platinum—at least 8 tickets with preferred VIP seating for the dinner, premium recognition as a host, including signage and a full page in the program; all benefits of being an institutional GFAF member, including legislative updates and one complimentary open government workshop for your organization or company, $10,000.
  • Gold—8 tickets with preferred VIP seating for the dinner, premium recognition as a host, including signage and a full page in the program, $5,000.
  • Silver—6 tickets for the dinner, recognition and signage, and a half-page in the program, $2,500.
  • Bronze—4 tickets for the dinner, recognition and signage and a quarter-page in the program, $1,500.

For information about becoming a 2017 Weltner sponsor, please call Lenora Kopkin 678-395-3618 or email info@gfaf.org.

The Weltner Banquet and the foundation’s annual Freedom of Information Award are named for Charles L. Weltner, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court who championed freedom of information and ethics in state government. Honorees reflect his commitment to open, transparent government.

The 2017 Weltner Award honoree is the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program, which works to improve governance and transform citizens’ lives worldwide by providing governments with actionable advice and technical assistance that increase transparency and help citizens exercise their fundamental right to information.

The foundation also is honoring the late Fulton County Superior Court Judge Stephanie B. Manis with its Open Government Hero Award. Manis, who died in December, was an unwavering advocate of open records and open meetings during her years in the Office of the Georgia Attorney General and on the bench.

Both awards will be presented during the Weltner Banquet. Laura Neuman, director of the Carter Center’s Global Access to Information Program, will accept the Weltner Freedom of Information Award and serve as the event’s keynote speaker. Manis’ family will accept the Open Government Hero Award in her honor.

Judge Marvin Shoob, 2007 Weltner Award honoree, dies at 94

 

Judge Marvin Shoob

U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob, who “made the Constitution a reality” in his rulings on Cuban refugees, the Ten Commandments, local jails and hundreds of other cases, has died at age 94. Read more from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Shoob—whose fierce willingness to address institutional injustices during more than 36 years on the federal bench in Atlanta stemmed from a seminal experience as a young soldier in World War II—died Monday. Read more from the Daily Report.

In 2007, Shoob’s commitment to constitutional rights was honored by the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. He received our annual Freedom of Information Award named for the late Charles L. Weltner, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court who championed freedom of information and ethics in state government.

Why Free Speech is Critical to Film and Television Production in Georgia…and Around the World

By Chris Dodd – One thing all Americans can agree on is the value of our freedoms. While we may sometimes take our Constitutional rights for granted, or differ on their precise interpretation, we can easily agree that the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution are fundamental to what makes our country what it is today.

chris_dodd1-1024x682(This blog by Motion Picture Association of America CEO and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd first appeared in the Huffington Post Oct. 17, 2016)

The First Amendment right to free speech undergirds all other rights, and here at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), we value and protect this freedom because it’s at the heart of everything we do. We take pride in our role protecting the rights of filmmakers to tell their stories – and for audiences to hear and see them.

Throughout its history, the film and television community has been a steadfast voice for free speech and expression. In fact, the MPAA was founded in 1922 to resist mounting calls for government censorship of films. While the nature of the fight has changed over the past century, our fight to promote and protect free speech continues unabated.

The Supreme Court has weighed in, referring to copyright to as the “engine of free expression.” But as the makers of great film and television continue to offer imaginative and innovative – often even controversial – storytelling, they still face threats to that basic freedom of expression today. There are some who seek to weaken copyright protections, to the detriment of creators. We will always fight on behalf of creators, and in support of free speech.

Last week, I was honored to accept the Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award on behalf of the MPAA for our efforts to strengthen free speech in the Peach State. I had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta and meet with local policy makers, journalists, lawyers, and industry professionals who share our passion for free speech.

Georgia has recently been a battleground in the fight to protect speech, and this year, we celebrate a major victory. Thanks to the efforts of Governor Nathan Deal and the state Legislature, Georgia has a new, improved anti-SLAPP statute that better protects the free speech rights of producers, writers, directors, actors, and other creative professionals – not to mention ordinary Georgia citizens who wish to speak out on public issues without the fear of facing ruinous lawsuits.

The new law makes it quicker, easier, and less expensive to have lawsuits that target the exercise of free speech dismissed. This will create a much more favorable legal environment for movie and TV production in Georgia.

Georgia First Amendment Foundation’s Executive Director Hollie Manheimer explained that MPAA was “instrumental in pushing for these free speech protections that benefit everyone in Georgia.” I am proud of our role in helping get the anti-SLAPP legislation over the goal line, and look forward to seeing continued growth in Georgia’s local film and television industry as a result.

The MPAA studios are strong supporters of anti-SLAPP laws, because they are frequent targets of lawsuits by people who don’t like how they are portrayed in movies and TV shows. Too frequently, these legal actions can have the effect of silencing creative voices, or at least making it more expensive and burdensome to tell stories about real people and events. Just think of all the great movies and TV shows audiences could lose out on absent these important legal protections.

Now, with further protections and fewer barriers, the film and television industry will be able to produce more films and shows in the state of Georgia, bringing in millions of dollars in revenue, and countless jobs to the area. This win for free speech is a win for every individual, family, business, and organization in the state.

My discussions in Georgia were particularly timely, as this week, we celebrate National Free Speech Week, an opportunity to recognize the importance of this freedom and recommit ourselves to protecting it. I encourage you to join the MPAA, and others, as we raise public awareness about the importance of free speech in our democracy – visit freespeechweek.org to learn more.

For more about the MPAA’s work to preserve free speech here.

For a full copy of Senator Dodd’s speech before the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, click here.

 

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 info@gfaf.org 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, gfaf@mindspring.com, 404-759-3646; or Becky Cesario, gfaf@proapg.com, 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

Email: info@gfaf.org

Twitter: @GA1stAmendFound