FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-42-01


September 4, 2001

The Honorable Allen L. Louderback
Luray, Virginia

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 a phone conversation with a member of your staff on July 3, 2001.

Dear Delegate Louderback:

You have asked a question concerning public records and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Specifically, you ask whether it is illegal for a public official to reveal the names of individuals who have made previously FOIA requests to that public official. You ask whether such disclosure is prohibited by either state or federal law.

FOIA defines public records at § 2.1-341 of the Code of Virginia as all writings and recordings ... regardless of physical form or characteristics, prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business.1 Subsection A of § 2.1-342 requires that [e]xcept as otherwise specifically provided by law, all public records shall be open to inspection and copying by any citizens of the Commonwealth.2 Therefore, unless a specific statutory exemption can be found in the Code, all public records must be disclosed upon request pursuant to FOIA. Upon review of the Code, no exemption exists for records of previous FOIA requests. To the extent that a public body has any records containing the names of individuals who have made FOIA requests, they would be available to the public.

You also ask about the application of federal law to this question. The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council only has the authority to issue opinions relating to the interpretation of the state FOIA, and thus cannot offer an interpretation as to the application of federal law. However, having contacted the Office of Information and Privacy at the United States Department of Justice, which administers the application of the federal Freedom of Information Act, it appears there is nothing in federal law prohibiting or exempting the disclosure of the names of individuals who have previously made FOIA requests to a public agency. If you have further questions about the application of federal law to this question, I would suggest that you contact the Office of Information and Privacy. The office can be reached by phone at (202) 514-3642.

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


Maria J.K. Everett
Executive Director

1. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3701 (Michie 2001) (effective Oct. 1, 2001).

2. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3704(A) (Michie 2001) (effective Oct. 1, 2001).