Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court backed a provision in Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act that enables government entities to deny access to records to non-Virginia residents.
The Virginia Coalition for Open Government wasted no time in criticizing the high court’s action.
“It is unfortunate that the court took such little interest in why citizens from one state may have a critical interest in or need for public information in another state,” said Megan Rhyne, executive director of the VCOG.
We can think of several instances where public records requests would come in handy for out-of-staters. Say you live in North Carolina and want to relocate to beautiful Hanover County, but first, you want to make sure your neighborhood’s safe. In order to actually obtain public police records pertaining to a certain area of the county, you would have to have someone in Virginia file a request on your behalf. If that doesn’t work, there’s also the “pretty please” approach.
A subcommittee of the state’s FOIA Council will meet later this month to decide whether the ruling should be repealed. We hope they deem it should be.
By that time, we hope Virginia will realize that if it wants to save itself time and effort, it should stop defending archaic public records laws instead of working overtime to deny people access.