Non-Residents Gain Access in Delaware
Access to public records in Delaware cannot be limited to state residents, a federal judge ruled recently.
U.S. District Judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr. granted summary judgment in favor of Mathew Lee, a New York consumer activist who filed a lawsuit after he was denied access to records in Delaware through that state’s FOI Act.
Lee’s lawsuit appears to be the first time a state’s residency requirement on FOI laws has been challenged. The attorney general said 11 other states, including Virginia, have similar FOIA restrictions limiting access to only state residents, and aside from Farnan’s ruling, there is no case law on the issue.
In his ruling, Farnan said the state’s ban on nonresidents filing FOI requests violates the U.S. Constitution’s privileges and immunity clause, which prohibits discrimination based on state residency.
Attorneys for the state compared its denial of FOI requests to the practice of a state of limiting voting to only its own residents, an argument Farnan said made no sense.
UPDATE: The 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.
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