The Weekly Tally 09.10.20

FREE SPEECH

As a general rule, court proceedings are open to the public – the documents and the hearings are available to anyone. There are certain types of cases (such as juvenile crime) which are held out of public view. Parties may also petition the court to keep files under seal, meaning documents are not publicly viewable. In December, 53 news organizations, including California News Publishers AssociationNational Public Radio and The Associated Press, signed on to a letter written by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to Chief Justice John Roberts asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider implementing policy for considering cases under seal, citing a “significant growth” in the number of cases filed under seal over 30 years, from one in 1990 to 46 in the 2018 term. That increase, they wrote, “is at odds with the Court’s long-standing commitment to openness and the First Amendment.” On Sept. 3, Clerk of the Court Scott S. Harris replied to say a proposed policy is forthcoming: “We agree with your view that there could well be a benefit to reducing our sealing procedures and practices to a formal rule.”

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“How is DoorDash selling my stuff and I don’t know it?” -Todd Williams, co-owner of Cherry Bean Coffee House in Salinas, on how DoorDash put his business on their platform despite him declining to partner.

GOOD WEEK / GREAT WEEK

GOOD

What’s better than getting a tax refund from the IRS? Getting professional help filing your tax returns if that help is free. For the 11th year, nonprofit United Way Monterey County oversaw the VITA program locally, a free tax prep service for people earning less than $66,000. For the 2019 tax year, they’ve just reported that they completed 1,870 tax returns, generating $3.65 million in refunds (both federal and state) for Monterey County residents – and that was in a pandemic year when the 118 IRS-trained volunteers had to transition to online assistance for tax prep. Of that total, nearly $100,000 came from California’s earned income tax credit (EITC) which took effect in 2016. “A refund of any amount is critical for the taxpayers, especially during the current economic crisis,” United Way Monterey County President CEO Katy Castagna said in a statement.

GREAT:

As part of Monterey Bay Community Power’s policy, a significant chunk of your electric bill has been going to the massive hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest. Last week, the agency changed its name to Central Coast Community Energy to reflect its growing service territory and voted to divest from the dams. Instead of going toward paying for paper credits known as renewable energy attributes from the dams, revenue collected from customers’ bills will be spent on the development of new solar and wind projects and battery storage. The change in direction is projected to save money for ratepayers and achieve state-mandated climate action targets 15 years ahead of schedule. There was consensus on the urgent need to reduce emissions so the debate now turns to another question: Can energy projects be built locally, or will they be located where development is cheaper?

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