The Virginia FOIA Opinion Archive


Coward v. City of Richmond

A valid subpoena duces tecum is not a matter covered by FOIA.

Wall v. Fairfax County School Board

High school student election results are not official records subject to disclosure under FOIA.

McLaughlin v. Town of Front Royal

An action taken in open session of a meeting is valid.

Shenandoah Publishing House v. Warren County School Board

Decided City Council did not violate FOIA by meeting in closed session; Shenandoah Publishing House Inc. v. The Winchester City Council; Chancery No. 95-156.

Commonwealth v. Payne

A city ordinance passed when all members of a public body vote in open session is valid.

Redinger v. Casteen

Letters exchanged between an institution of higher learning and a law firm representing a university student are not exempt as work product compiled for use specifically for litigation.

Wheeler v. Gabbay

FOIA and the discovery rules of the Supreme Court are mutually exclusive. Under FOIA, citizens are entitled to criminal incident reports that describe the criminal act.

RF&P Corp. v. Little

A corporation to which the Virginia Retirement System appoints two board of trustee members is not a public body under FOIA. A willful and knowing violation of FOIA warrants the imposition of a civil penalty.

Times-World Corp. v. Wells

Times-World Corp. v. Wells


32 Va. Cir. 239

November 16, 1993


Shenandoah Publishing House v. Warren County School Board

FOIA violations made in good faith do not require the imposition of civil penalties

In Re: Shain (4th Cir. on confidential sources)

Four South Carolina reporters who covered the bribery investigation of several state legislators were subpoenaed to testify in the subsequent criminal trial. Even after their motion to quash the subpoenas failed, the reporters refused to comply, asserting that: 1) they had a qualified privilege against being compelled to testify on newsgathering; and 2) the subpoenas violated Department of Justice guidelines that say the government must fail to exhaust all reasonable alternative sources. The district judge found them in contempt, and the Court affirmed, citing only an incidental burden on freedom of the press. Without evidence of governmental harassment or bad faith, the reporters had no privilege different from that of any other citizen not to testify about knowledge relevant to a criminal prosecution. Furthermore, the government did make clear that it could uncover no other source with evidence that the state senator had made false exculpatory statements.

Little v. Virginia Retirement System

an individual's wilful and knowing violation of FOIA merits penalty

Little v. Virginia Retirement System

Is the RF&P Corporation a public body subject to FOIA? Has there been a willful violation of FOIA?

Gannon v. State Corporation Commission

A plaintiff must exhaust all available state remedies in an action against an agency before proceeding to circuit court.

National Rural Utilities v. Greenlief

The tax-exempt status of certain individuals is information that is exempt from disclosure under FOIA by virtue of the Tax Code's general prohibition against release of taxpayer information.

James v. Division of Consolidated Services

Va FOIA excludes evidence related to a criminal investigation unless needed for criminal defense.

Taylor v. Worrell Enterprises

The governor's itemized telephone bills are official records exempt from disclosure as memoranda, working papers or correspondence.

ACLU v. Andrews


American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, et al.


Senator Hunter B. Andrews, et al.

Case No. HB-342-4

September 19, 1991

By Judge Randall G. Johnson

Reuber v. Food Chemical News Inc. (4th Cir. on libel)

Reuber, a scientist, declared himself a whistleblower and created the misleading impression that a controversial pesticide was carcinogenic. A newsletter published his employer's reprimand, which stated that Reuber had engaged in unprofessional conduct. He sued for defamation and won in a jury trial which awarded him compensatory and punitive damages. On appeal, the Court reversed and remanded in favor of Food Chemical News. Reuber had made himself a public figure, and so the . . .actual malice’ standard should be applied. The jury could not have found actual malice here. The court held that the First Amendment protected the public's right to learn both sides of a controversy through the press and declined to uphold a damages award that left the debate one-sided. The court reversed the jury verdict that favored Reuber and remanded the case for entry of judgment in favor of the news group.

Hale v. Washington County School Board

Relief for a plaintiff under FOIA does not include compelling a government body to turn over minutes, even if there are any, of an executive/closed meeting.

Lemond v. McElroy

Documents generated in connection with the payment process of a settlement agreement, after the mutual agreement to settle, are open to public inspection.

Atlas Underwriters v. State Corporation Commission

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) does not apply to the State Corporation Commission.

Associated Tax Service Inc. v. Fitzpatrick

The purpose or motivation behind a request made under FOIA is irrelevant to a citizen's entitlement to requested information.

Saunders v. Pethtel

FOIA and the statute that allows inspection of competitive sealed bids are separate and distinct.

Lee v. Ilbo (4th Circuit on libel)

A South Korean government agency issued a report that identified Lee, a U.S. resident alien, as a North Korean spy. Several newspapers and a television station reported the story. Lee sued the media groups for libel, and the trial court granted their motions for summary judgment. On appeal, the Court held that defendants were not entitled to the . . .official reports’ exception allowed under common law for those accused of republishing defamatory statements. That exception exists to promote government accountability, and this was a report from a foreign governments, so the rationale did not hold. Media groups have the same burden to verify reports from foreign governments as they do to verify reports from domestic non-official sources. The court reversed the summary judgment and remanded the case for Lee to prove falsity and negligence.