The following information should interest all genealogists researching ancestors in the U.S. While this case is about the State of New York, the results may affect all the other states:
This past Thursday, September 3, 2015, a legal petition was filed at the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York. Brooke Schreier Ganz and ReclaimTheRecords.org [Petitioner] vs. New York City Department of Records and Information Services (DoRIS) [Respondent]. DoRIS is the parent organization of the New York City Municipal Archives. The petition was made under Article 78 of New York State’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). FOIL allows for public access to records created in the course of government agency business, provided the requestor is willing to pay fair costs for copies. This is believed to be the first time a genealogist has tried to use FOIL to force public vital records back into the public domain. See below for more information.
A petition is different than a lawsuit. A petition is a formal application made to a court in writing that requests action made to a governing body, (such as a judge in this case), requesting action on a certain matter. A lawsuit cites wrongs and asks for damages. The right to petition is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, where the people were given the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. (http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/petition).
What the Request For Records Is About
Brooke Schreier Ganz is a genealogist and computer programmer living in California, but with New York roots. She is seeking access to copies of the 1908-1929 index to marriage licenses and affidavits, a series originally kept by the NYC City Clerk’s office, now stored at the NYC Municipal Archives. (The dates on these records are usually a few weeks before the actual marriage took place.)