freedom of information

Porto: Tell us your FOIA challenges

The Daily Press Media Group in 2014 filed hundreds of requests under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act seeking access to public records in the Hampton Roads area. Some of those requests started as simple questions, but local officials demanded that our reporters file formal requests for records, then said they would charge hundreds of dollars for the information, fees they insisted were reasonable.

That speaks to the attitude that’s a problem.

Legislation likely to be filed to address if Supreme Court of Va. database is a public record

Legislation is likely to be filed during the 2016 General Assembly session to address if digital databases are public records and subject to release under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

The issue stems from a denial by the Office of the Secretary of the Supreme Court of a FOIA request from the Daily Press in Newport News seeking the court case status database. The Supreme Court agency refused to release compiled court records to the Daily Press, but instead required case-by-case requests.

SPJ, NFOIC join forces -- and money -- to fight for Freedom of Information

The Society of Professional Journalists and the National Freedom of Information Coalition are joining forces - and legal war chests - to help citizens and journalists fight for public records.

The two groups will band together to help litigants who sue for access to government information. The NFOIC can provide court fees and SPJ help for attorney fees. Both organizations also will use their combined national networks of journalists and citizens to apply public pressure to government agencies that flaunt the law.

Slayton: FOIA -- It's the people's law

Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act isn’t just for journalists — it’s for you, the people who live in the commonwealth.

It is true that reporters have not shied away from invoking FOIA to gain access to records that public bodies are otherwise reluctant to release — open records requests helped uncover a scandal involving former Gov. Bob McDonnell and a wealthy businessman that ultimately resulted in McDonnell’s conviction on corruption charges.

But as we embark on Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of access to public information and what it means to your community, it marks a good time to remember that FOIA (Virginia code section 2.2-3700) is also for the citizens, and they have the power to hold their governments accountable.

As it states in the FOIA preamble: “The affairs of government are not intended to be conducted in an atmosphere of secrecy since at all times the public is to be the beneficiary of any action taken at any level of government.”

2016 FOIA Chart

This page covers the 2016 General Assembly legislation as it relates to the Freedom of Information Act and First Amendment issues. The table below includes links to the home pages of the legislation and the patron.

Note: The Freedom of Information Advisory Council is undergoing a 2-plus year study of Virginia's FOIA laws. At this time, it is uncertain if the General Assembly will incorporate bills filed during the 2016 General Assembly session into that study.

Judge rules that rejected plea deal will remain sealed

A circuit court judge this week ruled that a rejected plea deal would remain sealed in a case involving a fatal car crash that killed a Washington & Lee University student in December 2013.

However, Judge Jay Swett, appointed to hear the case in Rockbridge Circuit Court, set forth steps that must be taken before court proceedings or court records are closed or sealed:

Rhyne: Conversations lead to innovation

This is a column about conversations. 

Usually when I write about conversations, it’s within the context of public officials having them when the public isn’t present or privy to them. I take umbrage at the machinations of those who devise ways to exploit loopholes, and frown at those who would value efficiency over accountability.

But not today. The conversations I’m interested in today are the ones where citizens, government and, for lack of better term, techies, are talking to each other.

Rhyne: The public's right to select records IT wants

The proactive publication of information by government is an absolute must. In fact, the future of public records is in the increased consolidation of records and information into databases and data sets that are made freely and easily available to citizens and businesses alike. Every new piece of legislation that proposes the sharing of data about government’s performance is welcome news.

2016 FOIA Chart

This page covers the 2016 General Assembly legislation as it relates to the Freedom of Information Act and First Amendment issues. The table below includes links to the home pages of the legislation and the patron.

Note: The Freedom of Information Advisory Council is undergoing a 2-plus year study of Virginia's FOIA laws. At this time, it is uncertain if the General Assembly will incorporate bills filed during the 2016 General Assembly session into that study.

Rhyne: Talking About Public Business

There’s a phrase that gets bandied about occasionally by public officials when asked by reporters for comment about a particular matter. It’s meant as a conversation stopper; a statement against which no reasonable person could or would argue because it is meant to convey a certainty, as steadfast and unassailable as a the gaze of the Sphinx.

There are several versions of the phrase, but essentially it goes like this:

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