It’s true. Many Montanans do not fully realize the extent to which, as citizens, they have a right to access public documents and attend public meetings. Montana citizens have “a right to know” almost everything state and local governmental entities do and to have full access to public documents.

A webinar forum is being presented on Thursday, February 9, 6:30 pm, focused on Montana’s “Freedom of the Press and the Public’s Right to Know under the Montana Constitution.” Register for the webinar presentation at https:// lclibrary. event/10190724.

The program will be moderated by retired Montana Supreme Court Justice Jim Nelson, and features panelists, Darrell Ehrlick, editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, and Billings constitutional trial lawyer Martha Sheehy.

“There is a symbiotic relationship between freedom of the press and the public’s right to know,” says Nelson. “The press is being frustrated in its constitutional right to know and is being forced to file lawsuits both to ensure that public meetings are open to the public and receive proper public notice and that public documents are available to the public. “The press is subsidizing the public’s right to know.”

“The right to know guarantees that citizens have access to all governmental decision-making,” Sheehy adds. “People need to know how to exercise that right.”

“Because we stand in the public’s shoes,” says Ehrlick, who has been a party in a number of these lawsuits, ”our fight is your fight. You should know what the press is doing on your behalf because these are your public officials.”

Ehrlick is the former editor of The Billings Gazette, which took Montana’s top newspaper award six times in seven years during his tenure.

During her 35- year career, Sheehy has represented media interests and private citizens in enforcing Montana’s constitutional right to know in dozens of cases. Her uncle was a delegate to the 1972 Constitutional Convention.

Nelson, served on the Montana Supreme Court from 1993 to 2013 and is a former Glacier County Attorney and prosecutor.

The event is co-sponsored by the Montana League of Women Voters of the Helena Area and Lewis & Clark Library.


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