West Virginia

State high court upholds trial court's closure of juvenile court proceedings

Secret Courts | Feature | August 9, 1999
August 9, 1999

WEST VIRGINIA--In mid-July, the state Supreme Court of Appeals in Charleston, the state's highest court, unanimously upheld a trial court's order closing a case concerning the suspension of a student by the school board and sealing juvenile education records because it found a compelling public policy of protecting the confidentiality of juvenile information in all court proceedings exists in the state.

Reporter's privilege upheld in murder trial

Reporter's Privilege | Feature | April 21, 1997
April 21, 1997

Reporter's privilege upheld in murder trial


WEST VIRGINIA--Affirming that a qualified reporter's privilege does exist in West Virginia, the state Supreme Court in mid-March overturned a Circuit Court judge's decision ordering two newspapers to turn over unpublished photographs to a defendant on trial for murder.

Private session with school administrators violated meetings law

Freedom of Information | Feature | June 17, 1996
June 17, 1996

Private session with school administrators violated meetings law


WEST VIRGINIA--The state Supreme Court of Appeals in mid-May affirmed 5-0 a circuit court decision holding that the Fayette County School Board violated the Open Governmental Proceedings Act when four of its five members met privately with school system administrators the day before voting on the closing and consolidation of three schools.

Judge quashes subpoenas issued by criminal defendant

Reporter's Privilege | Feature | May 16, 1995
May 16, 1995

Judge quashes subpoenas issued by criminal defendant


WEST VIRGINIA--In early May, a trial judge quashed subpoenas issued to two newspaper reporters by a criminal defendant who was attempting to force the judge to recuse himself from the case.

a. Attorney fees.

Reasonable attorney fees may be awarded to successful FOIA plaintiffs. Daily Gazette Co. Inc. v. W.Va. Development Office, 206 W.Va. 51, 521 S.E.2d 543 (1999). West Virginia Code § 29B-1-7 provides:

Any person who is denied access to public records requested pursuant to this article and who successfully brings a suit filed pursuant to section five of this article shall be entitled to recover his or her attorney fees and court costs from the public body that denied him or her access to the records.

6. Other.

(This section is blank. See the point above.)

1. Salary.

(This section is blank. See the point above.)

3. Other remedies

In West Virginia, there have been no cases addressing penalties for noncompliance in a libel case. Potentially, in a civil case where the journalist is a party and he refuses to comply with an order compelling disclosure of a source or other information, a remedy such as default judgment may be imposed by the court against the media defendant. There is no statute or caselaw, however, that allows a court to instruct a jury that there is a "presumption of actual malice" or a presumption that there is no actual source.

A. Adjudications by administrative bodies.

Adjudicatory hearings by state or municipal bodies fall within the Open Meeting Act definition of "meeting." However, in defining the word "meeting," the Legislature excepted "any meeting for the purpose of making an adjudicatory decision in any quasi-judicial, administrative or court of claims proceeding." W. Va. Code §  6-9A-2(6). The exemption thus exempts meetings of such bodies in which the members discuss among themselves decisions that they must make in the course of an adjudication.

2. Legislative bodies.

Records of legislative bodies are subject to the FOIA to the same extent as records of any other public body. In Common Cause of West Virginia v. Tomblin, 186 W. Va. 537, 413 S.E.2d 358 (1991), the state Supreme Court invalidated the process by which the Legislature's Conferees Committee on the Budget traditionally prepared an informal but influential budget "digest" setting forth its view of the specific purposes for which general appropriations should be used.