FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-18-00


December 12, 2000

Mr. W. Keith Midgette
Newport News, VA

The staff of the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your e-mail of November 30, 2000.

Dear Mr. Midgette:

You have asked a question concerning access to your grandmother's death certificate from the State Health Department. A death certificate is considered a vital record, and as such is governed by Chapter 7 (§32.1-249 et seq.) of Title 32.1 (Vital Records) of the Code of Virginia, relating to the Department of Heath, generally. Specifically, subsection A of § 32.1-271 exempts vital records from the scope of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. Subsection D of § 32.1-271 further provides that when 50 years have elapsed from the date of death, the death certificate may become public record. The proper authority to whom to appeal a decision of nondisclosure of a local registrar is the State Registrar.[fn1] The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council has authority to issue opinions based on interpretations of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, and as this inquiry falls outside its reach, cannot offer further guidance.

Thank you for contacting this office. I hope that I have been of assistance.


Maria J.K. Everett
Executive Director


1. Va. Code Ann. §32.1-271(C) (Michie 1997).