WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced a U.S. Supreme Court unanimous ruling Monday to uphold a state law allowing only Virginians and state news organizations to use the Freedom of Information Act.
Cuccinelli previously argued that state officials had no duty to respond to out-of-state FOIA requests due to the excessive burden put upon state resources. He argued that the costs FOIA requesters pay often do not cover the full expense for taxpayers and that state employees are able to spend less time on their in-state work while responding to the requests.
The ruling does not affect the exemption in the FOIA allowing requests from out-of-state media outlets serving Virginia audiences.
"We appreciate the unanimous decision of the justices," Cuccinelli said. "FOIA is an important tool to ensure open government. But responding to FOIA requests is a financial burden on Virginia taxpayers, because while state employees are looking through documents to respond to requests, they can't do the normal work for the citizens of the commonwealth they are paid to do. The court agreed with our argument that FOIA is a service meant to ensure accountability to the commonwealth's citizens and that Virginia taxpayers should not be required to subsidize FOIA requests from nonresidents."
In McBurney v. Young, the Supreme Court affirmed a previous ruling made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Two out-of-state plaintiffs brought the case on two separate information requests and sued when the requests were refused.