Editorial: Court gives FOIA a small victory

After two painful losses before the South Carolina Supreme Court, there has been a small victory for the Freedom of Information Act in a case involving Greenville businessman and open-government activist Edward 'Ned' Sloan. The man who has sued a number of state and local agencies, often successfully, has been paid $18,000 in fees and costs related to a 2012 FOIA request that was handled improperly by the state Department of Revenue.

The victory does not create earth-shattering changes regarding open government but it does affirm part of the FOIA and protects the spirit of this important law. The effect of the court's ruling was negligible because it comes well after DOR produced documents that were being sought by Sloan, and as the court noted the 'request for injunctive relief was mooted by DOR's production' of the records.

Nevertheless, the state Supreme Court's opinion is welcome news. As Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association, told Greenville News reporter Tim Smith, the ruling should be good news for the public. Some state agencies spend months producing records sought through a FOIA request, and the law tightly defines the process that an agency must follow. Continue>>>