Legal Defense Fund
The Society's Legal Defense Fund is a unique account that can be tapped for providing journalists with legal or direct financial assistance. Application to the fund is approved by either a small committee or the national board, depending on the level of assistance sought. The committee works throughout the year raising funds for LDF.
SPJ and the Legal Defense Fund have provided precisely the support necessary to defend my wrongful arrest in Chicago. Without this financial backing there would be little chance of independent journalists like me to acquire competent representation to take on the resources available to local and state agencies that challenge our right to gather news. Journalists face extraordinary challenges while documenting news events. Having access to the SPJ network of professionals and the LDF is huge.
Crime scene photographer finds himself on cops bad side [Chicago Tribune]
Purpose of the Fund
The Society of Professional Journalists collects and distributes contributions for aiding journalists in defending the freedom of speech and press guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The primary role of the Legal Defense Fund is to initiate and support litigation that enforces public access to government records and proceedings, which can be the most expensive way to defend the First Amendment. The fund can also be a source of support for FOI hotlines, coalitions and newsletters, as well as for legislative lobbying activities aimed at enforcing public access to government records and proceedings.
All requests for money from the Legal Defense Fund will be weighed with special consideration for activities that will effect the most far-reaching and positive outcomes.
How to Request an LDF Grant
Download and complete a LDF application (PDF), stating specifically the purpose for which you are seeking assistance. Be sure to apply any documentation you have to support your request.
If your request is an emergency, call national headquarters at 317/927-8000 or call the chairs of either of the Societys Legal Defense Fund or the Freedom of Information committees. Be prepared to fax some documentation.
It is helpful for you to first enlist the support of a local SPJ chapter president or regional director. National headquarters can supply names and phones numbers.
Note: A six-person review committee can make decisions on financial requests of up to $1,000 at any time during the year. The Societys board of directors must review any requests for more than $1,000. The group meets each year in April and October.