Access to court records

The 1st Amendment, and common law, govern access to litigation-related court records, not FOIA

Attorney General Opinion 13-036

New law (effective date July 1, 2013) restricting access to concealed weapons permits is retroactive, and declares that court orders granting permits must be blocked from access, too.

Daily Press v. Commonwealth

Virginia Supreme Court rules that Newport News judge wrongly sealed trial exhibits. Big win for the Daily Press, and strong statements from Justice William Mims on the role of the press in being a surrogate for the public's right to know.

Perreault v. The Free Lance-Star (Va. Supreme Court)

The settlement terms of several wrongful death lawsuits brought in Spotsylvania County against a pharmaceutical company must be disclosed publicly and cannot be sealed in the court records, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled. The unanimous opinion upholds a circuit court ruling that it was improper to permit the suits to be settled without the details disclosed in court.

Ostergren v. McDonnell (federal district court)

Virginia law barring people from posting Social Security numbers on the Internet is unconstitutional as applied to a privacy advocate's Web site as it existed at the time of the lawsuit.

Zaleski v. Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF RICHMOND

Allan D. Zaleski,
Plaintiff

v.

Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission,
Defendant

CH03-1603-3

OPINION AND ORDER

The parties appeared for argument on the demurrer to the bill of complaint.

Proceeding under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, plaintiff seeks disclosure of an advisory opinion given by Counsel to the Judicial Inquiry Review Commission to a judge who verbally made the request and to whom a verbal opinion was given.

Attorney General's Opinion 2002 #095

two United States Supreme Court decisions you reference are not applicable to whether a circuit court clerk has a duty to provide public access to digital copies of the courts database of judicial or court records. It is my opinion that there is a presumption of openness of court records that has its origins in the common law, and the Virginia statutory law creates a presumption of openness with regard to requests for court records in digital format. Specifically, The Virginia Freedom of Information Act and §17.1-208 impose a duty on circuit court clerks to furnish copies of records requested by a citizen, without distinctions between paper and digital formats, provided the records are not sealed by court order or otherwise exempt from disclosure by law.

Attorney General's Opinion 2002 #116

a circuit court clerk may not decline to record a deed of trust that contains the grantors social security number. It is also my opinion that the clerks modification of a deed of trust offered for recordation may expose him to liability.

Smith v. Richmond Newspapers

Present: All the Justices

YVONNE G. SMITH

v.

RICHMOND NEWSPAPERS, INC., ET AL.

Record No. 000337

January 12, 2001

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF HENRICO COUNTY
George F. Tidey, Judge

OPINION BY JUSTICE LAWRENCE L. KOONTZ, JR.

In this appeal, we consider whether audio tape recordings of a felony criminal trial are open to inspection by the public under Code § 17.1-208 and, if so, whether mandamus is the proper remedy to compel the clerk of the trial court to allow such inspection.

BACKGROUND

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-15-00

Information regarding access to court records, specifically divorce records, is outside the scope of FOIA.

Attorney General's Opinion 2000 #031

A circuit court clerk may provide access to case management data through the Internet.

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