Rapping reporter settles city suits, lands law school scholarship
11:29 am, March 25th, 2013
The publisher of an online news site who, despite no formal legal training, won a Georgia Supreme Court decision forcing the Atlanta City Council to stop holding unrecorded votes has dismissed his claims, declaring total victory and pocketing a total of $1,000 to cover his expenses.
Matthew Cardinale, the 31-year-old webmaster and main reporter for the Atlanta Progressive News website, was beaming last week as he entered the Fulton County Courthouse to file his notice of dismissal.
In 2010, Cardinale filed suit against the city arguing that members of the City Council violated the state Open Meetings Act by failing to record the names and votes of members during a retreat in 2010.
Arguing his own case, Cardinale failed to persuade a Fulton County judge and the Georgia Court of Appeals that the law mandated that such votes be recorded, but in February 2012 a narrowly divided Georgia Supreme Court agreed with Cardinale, earning praise from state Attorney General Sam Olens and other open government advocates.
In 2012, Cardinale filed another suit claiming that the City Council routinely violated the law by closing committee briefings to the public. Earlier this year, the council’s seven committee chairs voluntarily agreed to open all briefings to the public.
On March 19 Cardinale dismissed both suits. Earlier this month, he accepted two payments of $500 each from the city to cover some of his expenses: copies, postage, phone bills – and a suit.
“Right before I was supposed to argue at the Supreme Court, they called and said, ‘You know you’re going to need a suit, right?’” said Cardinale. “So I had to go out and buy a suit – I didn’t have one.”
Asked about the resolution of Cardinale’s litigation, Deputy Atlanta City Attorney Eric Richardson offered a short response.
“I can only state that we’re pleased that this matter has finally been resolved,” Richardson said.
Cardinale’s foray into the legal field whetted his appetite for more, and he said he was recently awarded a full scholarship to attend law school at Gonzaga University, a Jesuit college in Spokane, Washington.
“I’m going to continue Atlanta Progressive News from afar for the next three years,” said Cardinale, who plans to start classes in August. “This will help me help other people, and be a more effective advocate when it comes to public policy, because people write terrible laws — not just substantively bad, but they’re also written terribly.”
Part reporter and part advocate, Cardinale often spoke at City Council meetings, occasionally breaking into a rap at the microphone. He said his performances, as well as his courtroom efforts, helped persuade Gonzaga officials to offer him a scholarship.
“I received a hand-written note from someone in [the] admissions [department] saying they enjoyed my City Council rap,” Cardinale said. “They said the whole committee watched it.”