Courts

Moody v. Portsmouth

The letter signed by five members of a city council and presented to another council member in a closed meeting should have been voted on first in open session.

Denton v. Hopewell

Circuit Court of Richmond Judge W. Allan Sharrett rules Hopewell cannot used a closed meeting to discuss whom to elect to the positions of mayor or vice mayor.

Harki v. DCJS

Harki v. Department of Criminal Justice Services: DCJS must turn over database of training records for law enforcement officers. Judge Joseph A. Migliozzi Jr. agrees that they are personnel records, but notes that the department said it would turn the records over (i.e., exercise their discretion to release records that could be withheld) and then reneged. The opinion also rejects the DCJS argument that it didn't own the database and that it really belonged to the individual law enforcement agencies that supplied the data.

Virginia Department of Corrections v. Surovell

The Virginia Supreme Court rules that a trial court must make its own determination of the property of withholding documents when a security interest is cited, but while doing so, it must accord "substantial weight" to the agency's (in the case, the Virginia Department of Corrections) determinations.

The court also holds that there is no duty to redact a record that is exempt under an exemption that is not limited by the phrases "to the extent" and "portions of."

(On this last point, the majority opinion does not even cite 2.2-3704 where it says one of the four allowable responses is to redact a record if it has exempt material in it.)

Fitzgerald v. Loudoun County Sheriff's Office

In a proceeding under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, to obtain a copy of a suicide note contained in a criminal investigative file opened by a sheriff’s office under its lawful authority to investigate the unexpected and unattended death of a senior United States Air Force official, the sheriff had the discretion, but not the duty, to disclose documents within this file and eventual closure of the file did not change its character. Nor did the suicide note, standing alone, constitute a compilation subject to disclosure under Code § 15.2-1722(B). The judgment of the circuit court denying a writ of mandamus to compel disclosure of this document is affirmed.

ATI v. UVA

Supreme Court of Virginia rules unanimously that UVA can withhold records requested by the American Tradition Institute (ATI) under the exemption for academic research and "proprietary records." Court adopts interpretation of "proprietary" that encompasses records that are within the "ownership, title and possession" of the university. Though the ruling is limited to the research exemption (2.2-3705.4(4)), Justice Mims, in concurrence, notes the potential for expansion into FOIA's many other references to "proprietary" records.

The opinion also gives the green light to charging for the review of records to determine their responsivness to a request.

The case was clouded from the beginning by the topic and target of ATI's request: the emails of climate scientis Michael Mann. The issues became one's opinion on climate change and/or one's feelings on academic freedom instead of on whether FOIA's exemption did or did not apply.

Virginia Broadcasting Corp. v. Commonwealth

Virginia Supreme Court rules trial court did not err in refusing TV station's request to have cameras present during the sentencing phase of convicted murder defendant George Huguely.

The court attempted to reconcile two seemingly contradictory phrases within the statute and while setting forth the specific procedure to be used in the future, acknowledged that it is not the way things have been done practically speaking.

McBurney v. Young

The U.S. Supreme Court rules (9-0) that Virginia FOIA's limitation on out-of-state requests (i.e., requests from out of state do not have to be honored) is constitutional.

Daily Press v. Commonwealth

Virginia Supreme Court rules that Newport News judge wrongly sealed trial exhibits. 

Ewing v. Harmon

In a petition under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act arising from a request for production by a police department of personnel records of a specific officer, such records are subject to the protections of Code § 2.2-3705.1(1) and their production was appropriately refused by the Department; the circuit court's order requiring disclosure of the personnel records is reversed. The request for criminal incident information including the identities of all individuals, other than juveniles, arrested or charged by this officer must be accommodated by the Department. However, under Code § 2.2-3706 the portion of the request concerning the identities of individuals arrested by other officers based on observations or information supplied by the specified officer seeks information that is exempt from disclosure. Concerning the award of attorneys' fees in this matter under Code § 2.2-3713(D), the determination of "special circumstances" lies in the sound discretion of the trial court, and this issue must be considered in light of the several holdings in favor of the responding police department on this appeal. The circuit court must reconsider whether to award attorneys' fees and, if so, the appropriate quantum. The judgment is affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the case is remanded.

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