Supreme Court rules states can restrict access to public records

Submitted by LDieringer on Tue, 04/30/2013 - 11:45am

From USA Today:

WASHINGTON -- States may have little reason to restrict public records access to their own residents, but the practice is not unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
 
The unanimous decision, allowing Virginia to favor its residents under its Freedom of Information Act, goes against media organizations and professional data miners that had sided with the law's out-of-state challengers.
 
[...]
 
The federal government and all 50 states have laws giving people the right to inspect some government records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The laws are used by journalists, researchers and a growing industry that mines data from government records, which are used to do everything from selling real estate to setting credit scores.
 
At least seven states restrict that right to residents of the state. Their laws are protected by the Supreme Court ruling, but it doesn't necessarily extend to other state laws that treat residents differently from non-residents.

In response to this decision by the Supreme Court, NFOIC's executive director, Ken Bunting, had this to say:

"I am disappointed, though I am surprised only in the fact that the court was unanimous. Even if we must accept the High Court's holding that access to information is not a fundamental right that accrues even to residents of other states, that doesn't mean that discriminatory laws that deny access to non-citizens is good public policy. It is not.

 
"Hopefully, Virginia's legislators will take another look at the restriction in light of this decision, and perhaps change it.  And hopefully, this holding will not embolden other states to enact such restrictions." 

You can read the Supreme Court opinion here, and for a bit of background on the case, start with NFOIC joins nonprofits in amicus brief involving Virginia FOIA case.

Also, be sure to see this post from Megan Rhyne, executive director of Virginia Coalition for Open Government: My public record: I'm mad as heck at McBurney opinion.

 

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