UPDATE on Reclaim The Records' legal fight to open ~1.6 million NYC death certificates from 1949-1968 #records #usa
Hello again from your friends at Reclaim The Records! We have an exciting update in our long-running legal battle to:
(1) acquire and then release to the public about 1.6 million currently-inaccessible New York City death certificates from 1949-1968, totally free, as uncertified digital scans that we want to put online, and
(2) strike down some truly awful new rules that heavily restrict public access to twentieth century New York City vital records, even from some of the relatives of the people directly named in the records.
We had one court hearing in November 2019 and one in early 2020, before two different judges, facing off with the City over some of the issues. And then the pandemic struck, and things in the New York City court system understandably got put on hold for a while. But now, we've got some movement -- and we don't want to jinx it, but it sure seems to be looking promising.
For the latest details, and direct links to PDF's of all of our court paperwork so you can read the legal play-by-play for yourselves, check out our latest newsletter issue:
Fun fact: in the process of researching this case, we also caught New York City government officials in an "astroturf" campaign, i.e. making up fake grassroots support for their restrictive new rule changes about vital records access, since not a single member of the public had submitted any comments in support of their proposed new restrictions, while more than six thousand genealogists wrote and spoke against them. We got copies of the e-mails where the city officials wrote the letters of support they wish they had gotten, and then sent those on to others to merely sign their names and/or paste them onto new letterhead.
If we win this case in total, then we will, as always, release all the records online for free public use, without any copyrights or usage restrictions. Heck, at this point, with the case taking two years and counting, we might even get all the 1969 and 1970 death certificates too, since those are all more than fifty years old now. However, this case is a little unusual in that we could win the right to the records, or win the right to strike down the newly-enacted vital records access restrictions as arbitrary and capricious, or win both (ideally!), or none of it. We'll have to wait and see what the judge says.
Special shout-out to our intrepid attorney on this case, Michael Moritz -- whose name you might recognize, because when he's not busy citing case law and arguing with government officials about death certificates he's also an experienced genealogist, the Director of JewishGen's Romania Research Division, and a frequent contributor to JewishGen's Germany Research Division.
Reclaim The Records is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in the US, as recognized by the IRS. Your support for our work is greatly appreciated, and helps us do our work on many ongoing lawsuits, like this one. We want our records back!
- Brooke Schreier Ganz
President and Founder, Reclaim The Records
Mill Valley, CA