SAN RAFAEL -- The First Amendment Coalition (FAC), a non-profit organization based in San Rafael, will be bringing on board a new executive director in 2017.
David Snyder, a lawyer from San Francisco, will be taking over from the current FAC executive director, Peter Scheer, when Scheer leaves the FAC on Jan. 1 to pursue other interests.
“I’ve been doing this for about 12 years’ time,” Scheer told the Northern California Record.
Snyder was chosen from among 50 applicants for the position of executive director and has a unique past that makes him especially qualified to head the FAC, Scheer said. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Snyder was also a journalist for 16 years in New Mexico, Texas, New York and Washington, D.C.
“The fact that he was a journalist meant he relied on the First Amendment,” said Scheer. “He understands the pressures they’re under.”
As the new executive director of the FAC, Snyder will be in charge of spearheading the organization's daily operations as well as carrying out its mission, which is protecting freedom of the press and the public’s “right to know” when it comes to holding all levels of government accountable.
“He has the right combination of experience and is committed to lead the FAC forward,” Scheer said.
His duties will range from filing lawsuits against government officials who violate rules such as the Freedom of Information Act and providing free legal help to journalists who may wind up in trouble with the law while covering the news. The FAC also provides free legal help to activists, academics and people who are frustrated with how their First Amendment rights have been handled by the government. The FAC also works to identify legal issues that they want to get involved in, whether those issues pertain to another lawsuit or infringement of something related to the First Amendment.
While the FAC is based in California, its work goes beyond the state level – the organization often get involved with legal issues at the federal level, as well as legislation related to issues involving free speech and the press.
While a new job might pose challenges for anyone, there is the possibility Snyder may face some especially unique challenges, Scheer said. Like many people who have previously spoken out about Trump’s administration either during or after the election, Scheer believes that the new president-elect will pose serious issues to the free press in this country.
“Relations between journalists and the government will become increasingly hostile,” said Scheer.
In addition to managing the FAC, Snyder also will be organizing fundraisers with the purpose of raising money to keep the FAC moving forward.
Despite his plans to step down, Scheer still plans to remain involved in the issues he has been passionate about for over a decade of his life.
“I’m going to remain interested in First Amendment issues,” said Scheer.