Closed - Legal Matters

Also, see 1999 FOIA changes

Cole v. Smyth County BOS

Supreme Court of VIrginia rules unanimously, May 28, 2020, that the Smyth County Board of Supervisors used an improper motion to go into closed session and talked about matters beyond the scope of the claimed exemption.

Bragg v. BOS (Rappahannock County)

A Rappahannock County circuit judge ruled the board of supervisors there improperly closed a meeting to talk about an advertisement seeking a replacement for an outgoing county attorney as well as alternatives to the county attorney set-up. The topic was not "legal advice," nor did it fall under the personnel exemption for "prospective candidates for employment."

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-02-10

A motion to convene a closed meeting must identify the subject of the meeting, the purpose of the meeting, and cite an applicable exemption from the open meeting requirements. In order to avoid confusion and misunderstanding, the preferred practice is to make a separate motion for each topic that will come under consideration during a closed meeting.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-13-09

A motion to convene a closed meeting must identify the subject of the meeting, state its purpose, and provide a reference to an applicable exemption. Quoting or paraphrasing a statutory exemption states the purpose of the meeting, but does not identify the subject. FOIA places the duty to identify the subject of a closed meeting upon the public body holding the meeting, not its attorney.

FOI Advisory Council Opinion AO-01-07

The closed meeting exemption for consultation with counsel regarding specific legal matters may not be used for the purpose of discussing a general policy in the absence of any specific legal transaction or dispute.

Attorney General's Opinion 1992 #001

Negotiations regarding the substantive terms of a contract to buy water from a neighboring locality is a 'legal matter' that can be discussed in a closed meeting because public disclosure could compromise negotiating positions/strategy. Not all public business that may end up in contract form is considered a 'legal matter'.

Attorney General's Opinion 1986-87 #031

Annexation is not a 'legal matter' within a school board's jurisdiction, so a closed meeting to discuss annexation is not permissible.

Attorney General's Opinion 1985-86 #103

General legal matters are not a proper subject for closed meeting. Legal matters must be specific. Board of zoning appeals is subject to FOIAÄ…s meeting requirements.

Attorney General's Opinion 1984-85 #426

Where city attorney calls in council members to prepare them as witnesses in a scheduled trial, there has been no meeting. No public policy is deliberated, the individuals were not gathered as an entity, and no action by the entity was anticipated.

Attorney General's Opinion 1982-83 #717

Discussion about the desirability of creating a deferred payment plan for hooking up to the city sewer line is not proper subject for closed meeting under the legal matters exemption.Reading a prepared statement to close a meeting does not meet the FOIA requirement that a motion to go into a closed meeting must be adopted.


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