"Citizens Only" FOIA Restriction Heard by Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging Virginia's "citizens only" Freedom of Information provision yesterday.  According to news accounts (including this one from The New York Times), Justices were skeptical of petitioner arguments that the clause -- which limits the disclosure of Virginia public records to "citizens of the Commonwealth" only -- was unconstitutional. No matter what the Court decides, "citizens only" provisions are few and far between and seldom enforced.  In the few instances in which records caretakers actually attempt to enforce the provision, hiring a state resident (or anyone with an in-state address really) provides an effective workaround.  As we've stated here before, being nice and respectful works, as well, since records caretakers typically only pull out the "citizens only" requirement if they are overtaxed or feel under appreciated.

No matter what the Court decides, take a few minutes and read the Petitioner's brief in this matter.  The brief does a wonderful job of laying out the history of public records in the United States and discussing the legislative and practical underpinnings of our public-records based system. Also worth a read -- the numerous Amicus briefs filed in the matter.  (All briefs courtesy of the Petitioner's law firm, Gupta/Beck PLLC.)