Supreme Court Says Out Of State Residents Have No Constitutional Right To Virginia's FOIA Law
from the really-now? dept
A few months back, I mentioned that we had joined in an amicus brief in a challenge to Virginia’s freedom of information act (FOIA) law, which limited the ability of non-Virginia residents to make use of the law. In particular, we were extra concerned about how the law seemed to treat different types of requests in different ways — such as allowing out of state newspapers to file FOIA requests, but not allowing other publications like blogs to file. We ended up joining with a large number of publications and other interested parties in asking the Supreme Court to declare the limitations in Virginia’s law unconstitutional.
On Monday, the Supreme Court went the other way, saying that the law and its restrictions are legal, and that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to FOIA requests. It also basically said that these restrictions weren’t that big of a deal. That seems unfortunate, given how important transparency is to good governance, and how key FOIA requests have been in increasing transparency. Just because you don’t live in a state, it doesn’t mean that you can’t help investigate and report on happenings in that state.
As someone who has filed regional and federal FOIA requests for quite some time now, such restrictions are somewhat worrisome. Of course, where the state of Virginia and the Supreme Court seek to hoard such information from out of state requests, others are already working on ways to tackle the problem. Muckrock, the platform for filing FOIA requests (who was a part of the coalition on the amicus brief) has already started building a list of volunteers in each state (especially in Virginia and the six other states with similar laws) to file requests locally in that state standing in for those out of state. They’re looking for more volunteers, so if you’re interested, click that link and sign up.