U.S. Supreme Court Allows State to Limit Use of FOIA

30 April 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court April 29 ruled that a state may prohibit non-state residents from using the state freedom of information law.

 The unanimous opinion upheld restrictions by the state of Virginia in a case, McBurney v. Young, No. 12-17, brought by a California man seeking property records for commercial clients and a Rhode Island man seeking information concerning child support payments.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the court, said the restrictions do not violate constitutional protections meant to ensure that citizens of different states are treated the same in interstate commerce, or a clause protesting fundamental privileges and immunities.

Alito said there were no fundamental rights at stake. “This Court has repeatedly made clear that there is no constitutional right to obtain all the information provided by FOIA laws,” he wrote.

There were other ways to get the information, he said. “Requiring noncitizens to conduct a few minutes of Internet research in lieu of using a relatively cumbersome state FOIA process,” he wrote, “cannot be said to impose any significant burden.”

The court heard arguments on the case in Febraury. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

Other State Limitations

Only five states *really* bar out of state requesters, according to the blog Muckrock, “depending on how you read conflicting laws, court interpretations, and AG opinions.”

Here’s the Muckrock breakdown, including the relevant citations, average response times, and resources for those filing from other states.

The Muckrock list shows that there are  nine states in which FOIA requests must be made by residents. The states are:

 Mucksays: “The above links contain additional resources on each of these states’ laws, MuckRock’s effectiveness in these states, and organizations focused on public transparency in those states. MuckRock has a network of proxy filers to help with issues of standing in the above-mentioned jurisdictions.”

*This jurisdiction’s limitations on citizen requesters is unclear. If you have more information or examples, please let us know at info@muckrock.com.

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