DC Court of Appeals warms to coalition arguments against novel “speech and debate” exemption for DC Council

Appearing as friend of the court, the D.C. Open Government Coalition last week argued that a new claim of exemption from the D.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the D.C. Council is fatally flawed. According to the Coalition, it misunderstands the law and opens a door for denials wider than available to any other agency covered by the D.C. open records law the Council has applied to itself for 15 years.

The case is Vining v. Council of the District of Columbia, a citizen’s appeal of a Superior Court ruling upholding Council use of a “speech and debate” part of D.C. Code as a FOIA exemption. The Council invoked the unusual exemption in denying records related to the McMillan Reservoir development.

The court seemed surprised to hear the Council attorney assert a sweeping interpretation, that the law allows withholding any record “used by a Member” in legislative work. Continue…