Out-Of-State FOIA-Filing Case Bound For Supreme Court

Should non-residents be granted Freedom of Information Requests for state government data? An appeal challenging a Virginia law that prohibits non-Virginians from FOIAing state files is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court for reevaluation.

The appeal comes from Mark J. McBurney of Rhode Island and Roger W. Hurlbert of California, who filed FOIA requests in Virginia and were denied access, a decision high courts in the state upheld as legal.

The Associated Press examines similar issues in other states with restrictive FOIA laws:

Two federal appeals courts have ruled differently on this issue. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Delaware’s citizens-only Freedom of Information Act law was unconstitutional because ‘‘access to public records is a right protected by the Privileges and Immunities Clause’’ of the Constitution. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in Virginia, saying the law’s limitations were legal.

‘‘Nothing in the language of the VFOIA prohibits Hurlbert from pursuing his profession in Virginia,’’ the federal appeals court said.

It also said Virginia’s ‘‘citizen-only provision does not bar (McBurney) from engaging in the political process, advocating his own interests, or advancing his political or legal arguments within the commonwealth.’’

Arguments are expected to be heard in 2013. Do you think laws like this will be upheld?