U.S. court: â€˜No state is an island.â€™
FOI laws may be designed to keep citizens informed, but to Virginia, use of Virginia’s FOIA is limited to "citizens of the Commonwealth," or to representatives of the press broadcasting or publishing in Virginia.
The Virginia General Assembly in 2002 added a provision allowing record custodians to ask for a requester’s legal name and address, just to make sure the requester really lived within state borders. (This provision conflicts with FOIA’s axiomatic principle that requesters do not have to say who they are or what they want the records for.)
To the Virginia FOI Advisory Council’s credit, it has suggested to record custodians that it is better to fill a request than to quibble with someone over where they live.
In August 2006, a federal court in Philadelphia struck down Delaware’s law, which similarly limited use of the law to state citizens.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Delaware’s citizens-only limitation violated the U.S. Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause.
Delaware had argued that the limitation was necessary for "defining the political community" there. But the three-judge panel found "no evidence that allowing noncitizens to directly obtain information will weaken the bond between the State of Delaware and its citizens."
"No state is an island -- at least in the figurative sense -- and some events which take place in an individual state may be relevant to and have an impact upon policies of not only the national government but also of the states."
VCOG has urged the FOI Advisory Council to study repealing the Virginia limitation, citing the possibility of a similar court case here.
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