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the state Supreme Court in mid-March overturned a Circuit Court judge's decision ordering two newspapers to turn over unpublished photographs to a defendant on trial for murder.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.

2. Time limits for filing appeals.

An appeal to the state Supreme Court must be filed within four months after the challenged order was issued by the circuit court.

2. What physical form of records are covered?

The Freedom of Information Act applies to any conceivable physical form of "documentary materials":

'Writing' includes any books, papers, maps, photographs, card, tapes, electronic mail, recordings or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics.

(6). Penalties and remedies for failure to give adequate notice.

The Open Meetings Act does not provide any penalties for failing to follow the rules set out for going into executive session. The Act does provide that the public agency cannot make any decision in executive session; therefore any decision reached in such a closed meeting would be voidable.

a. Fines

In West Virginia, there is very little, if any history of reporters being fined for failure to comply with a subpoena. There is no specific cap on such fines, and there is no statute or caselaw specifically addressing contempt proceedings where a reporter refuses to comply with a subpoena.

5. Pleading format.

The complaint need only contain a "short and plain" statement of your claim. If it seeks injunctive relief, it must be verified. Describe the contents of the request, and state when and to whom the request was made. Recount the reasons (if any) given for its denial. Invoke the FOIA, as well as the state constitution and common law, if applicable, as the legal basis for your claim. If either your request or the denial is in writing, attach a copy to the complaint. The most important thing is to clearly identify the information to which you were denied access.