Freedom Of Information Hotline

Since 1992, Parr Waddoups Brown Gee & Loveless [ ] has operated the Freedom of Information Hotline for the Utah Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The FOI Hotline provides free legal assistance, 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, to Utah journalists seeking access to government records, meetings and judicial proceedings.

User Guidelines

The Utah FOI Hotline assists Utah journalists in gaining access to public records, meetings and proceedings in Utah. Lawyers answering the Hotline will field questions about access to public records, public meetings and the courts, as well as cameras in the courtrooms, gag orders and prior restraints. The Hotline does NOT deal with libel and slander issues, search warrants, trespass, subpoenas or privacy law. Reporters are advised to consult with attorneys from their respective news organizations for assistance in these areas.

The Hotline is free. The phone number for calls originating within the Salt Lake metropolitan area is 532-7840. The toll-free number for long-distance calls is 1-800-574-4546.

The Hotline is operated by the law firm of Parr Waddoups Brown Gee & Loveless for the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist. Parr Waddoups operates the Hotline as a public service, and receives no compensation for its legal services.

Inquiries may be made by any working jounalists in Utah.

When phoning the Hotline, explain at the outset that this is a Hotline call. The operator will then direct you to a Hotline attorney. Identify yourself to the attorney and state the media organization, if any, you represent. Describe your problem.

Most access issues can be resolved during the initial phone consultation. Occasionally, the Hotline attorney may need to research the question and get back to the journalist. If necessary, Hotline attorneys will make phone calls or write letters in an attempt to resolve access disputes. Litigation is not included within the scope of the Hotline service. If litigation appears necessary, the reporter will be advised to consult his or her news organization to determine whether it is willing to finance a lawsuit.

The Hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whenever possible, use the Hotline during normal business hours. If you have an access problem after hours, call Jeff Hunt at 801.322.3208.

In recognition of its operation of the FOI Hotline and defense of the First Amendment, Parr Waddoups was awarded the first Amendment Award of the National Society of Professional Journalists.

Utah Open Government Laws

Summary of the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act

Notice of meetings must be posted 24 hours in advance. The act does not require any meeting to be closed. The public body cannot take action in a closed meeting.

Before convening in closed session the public body must vote on it in an open meeting. The vote must be by a two-thirds majority.

Reasons for holding a closed session:

Meetings may be closed for six reasons (UCA 52-4-5 (1) ):

  1. Discussion of the character, professional competence or physical or mental health of an individual.
  2. Strategy sessions related to collective bargaining.
  3. Strategy sessions related to litigation.
  4. Strategy sessions related to the purchase, sale, exchange, or lease of real property.
  5. Discussion of the deployment of security personnel or devices.
  6. Investigative proceedings regarding allegations of criminal misconduct.

If you suspect a meeting is being illegally closed, stand, state your name and cite the reason for your concern. Ask that your comments become part of the meeting’s record. If possible, ask for time to call the Utah FOI Hotline.

For specific questions see Utah Code 52-4-1 et. Seq. Or call the Utah FOI Hotline.

Parr Waddoups Brown Gee & Loveless
Freedom of Information Hotline:
In Salt Lake: 801.532.7840

Jeffrey J. Hunt

Jeffrey Hunt practices in the area of commercial litigation, with particular emphasis in First Amendment and media law. Mr. Hunt represents a number of local newspaper, radio and television companies in the areas of defamation, privacy, news gathering, access, copyright, trademark, and related issues. He regularly represents broadcasters, publishers, and other commercial clients in state and federal courts. He also has served as local counsel for two national television networks.

Mr. Hunt earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State University in 1983. During the four years following, he was a Copy Editor for The Des Moines Register, and a Reporter for the Quad-City Times and Deseret News. In 1990, Mr. Hunt received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Utah College of Law, Order of the Coif, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Utah Law Review. He was a Judicial Clerk for the Honorable David K. Winder, United States District Court for the District of Utah, and joined Parr Waddoups in 1991.

Mr. Hunt is a regular guest lecturer on First Amendment and Media Law at the University of Utah College of Law and Weber State University. In 1992, Mr. Hunt founded the Utah Freedom of Information Hotline, providing free legal assistance to Utah journalists. He is a recipient of the Roy B. Gibson Freedom of Information Award from the Utah Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He is a member of the Salt Lake County Bar Association (Executive Committee), the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation’s First Amendment and Media Litigation Committee, The Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and the American Inns of Court, Sutherland Inn II. Mr. Hunt is also a registered lobbyist in the State of Utah.

Copyright 1999