A FOIA case is pending before the Supreme Court of Virginia. Given the Court’s recent history (for example, on cameras in the courtroom and FOIA and the SCC), that alone is cause for concern. This post discusses the case, what’s at issue, and how it matters for open government in Virginia.
Later this week, probably on Thursday, April 17th, the Supreme Court of Virginia will release its next batch of opinions. The Court hears cases in sessions, which happen about every 6-8 weeks. By tradition, the Court releases all published opinions in cases argued at the previous session on the last day of the next session. The Court isn’t required to follow that schedule; it can take as long as it wants. But month in and month out, the Court follows its traditional schedule in all manner of cases, complicated and simple, controversial and not.
It is cause for raised eyebrows therefore that the Court missed its usual timeframe on one case (record no. 130934) argued in January: the entity formerly known as the American Tradition Institute (ATI) and Virginia Delegate (and Congressional candidate) Bob Marshall v. the University of Virginia and former UVA professor Michael Mann. This is pure speculation, but there may be multiple opinions or close questions where the Court wanted to write carefully. For our purposes, the key points are that a FOIA case has reached Virginia’s top court, with significant implications for all Virginia citizens.
Some may remember the Supreme Court’s 2012 opinion concluding that then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli could not obtain Mann’s e-mails and records as part of an AG investigation of whether Mann’s climate research and publications constituted fraud. The ATI and Marshall, also in the climate change skeptic camp, have been trying to obtain Mann’s e-mails and records through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). UVA provided some documents but withheld thousands of others. ATI also has ponied up $4,000 for UVA’s review of the records so far. ATI & Marshall want the withheld records disclosed and their money back.
The trial court ruled for UVA, concluding both that the records were exempt and that UVA could charge for its FOIA exemption review.
Read the entire story here: http://www.openvirginialaw.com/2014/04/climate-change-virginia-foia/