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Virginia FOIA case making historic appearance in U.S. Supreme Court

By   /   February 19, 2013  /   No Comments

Supreme Court justices in Washington, D.C., will hear oral arguments on Wednesday over the constitutionality of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act laws.

ALEXANDRIA—The Old Dominion is taking center stage in the national fight over government transparency.

U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday will listen to oral arguments and consider whether Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act law, which doesn’t grant out-of-state residents the same access rights to state and local government documents as in-state residents, is constitutional.

Currently, Virginia is one of only a handful of states in the country in which state and local governments can deny records requests on the basis of state residency. But a California business owner and a Rhode Island man embroiled in a child-support case have challenged that law taking it all the way to the highest court in the land. And dozens of news and open government organizations around the country have rallied around their cause.

Thomas Fitton, president of Judicial Watch — a conservative national organization for government transparency backing the access expansion — said it’s about time for Virginia to alter its embarrassing out-of-state restriction, especially given the commonwealth’s roots in freedom.

“It’s completely at odds with any common sense notion of good government,” Fitton told Watchdog.org in a January interview. “The right to request records and demand accountability from your government goes back before the creation of the state. It’s a right that people have inherently.

The Fourth Circuit upheld the law as-is, while the Third Circuit voided it.

Oral arguments are open to the public and begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday (Feb. 20) at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

— Kathryn Watson