US Supreme Court Decision On Virginia Freedom of Information Act And Out of State Resident Requests

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

IAJGS Public Records Access and Monitoring Committee member Ken Ryesky shared a recent –April 29, 2013 US Supreme Court decision in McBurney v. Young:

This case is about: Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act  (FOIA) that grants Virginia citizens access to all public records, but grants no such right to non-Virginians.  The  Supreme Court decision upheld a lower court’s decision that found Virginia’s FOIA does not violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause, which protects only those privileges and immunities that are “fundamental.”  Justice Alito  delivered the court’s  decision found: that the petitioners rights were not violated as Virginia made most of the information available through other means than the FOIA. 

Two petitioners brought suit- one living in California wanting real estate records and another in Rhode Island wanted documents as to why a state agency policy may have held up child support for 9 months.  What this decision may affect for out-of-state residents requesting genealogically relevant records is unknown. Ken states “in and of itself the ruling isn't really that bad; it merely creates possible opportunities for state residents to earn money as middlemen/women.   But it may well be the proverbial camel's nose under quite a few tents.”

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President

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