Virginia Supreme Court hears argument in newspaper’s access to records case

The Daily Press took its battle with the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Virginia Supreme Court over access to a statewide court records database to the justices of the state Supreme Court on Friday.

The newspaper is seeking the data under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act to determine whether race plays a part in plea bargains in the state’s circuit courts. The position of the OES is that each of the state’s clerks — not the OES — is the custodian of the records.

The OES, which is the court administrator for the state, has turned over to the Daily Press the data from 50 clerks who agreed to release it, but withheld data from the 68 clerks who did not agree, even though the information is public (two of the 120 circuit courts, Fairfax County and Alexandria, do not use the case management system).