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the state Supreme Court in mid-March overturned a Circuit Court judge's decision ordering two newspapers to turn over unpublished photographs to a defendant on trial for murder.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

3. Student records.

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

L. Parole board meetings, or meetings involving parole board decisions.

The Open Meetings Act does not specifically authorize the closure of parole board meetings. Although parole board proceedings might arguably fall within W. Va. Code § 6-9A-4(7), it is more likely that the courts would not apply that exception in such circumstances. Moreover, the state Supreme Court narrowed the scope of a similar exemption under the Freedom of Information Act in Hechler v. Casey, supra. Further, to the extent that the parole board exercises quasi-judicial functions, its proceedings are subject to the constitutional open courts mandate.

C. Court-derived exclusions, common law prohibitions, recognized privileges against disclosure.

The Supreme Court of Appeals has stated repeatedly that the specific exemptions contained in section four of the Freedom of Information Act are the only exemptions from disclosure under the Act. However, while the court has never specifically decided any claim for confidentiality based upon any privileges against disclosure which existed at common law, the court has recognized privileges in the context of FOIA litigation in three cases.

d. Photo journalist

Beyond the Hudok court's citation to the Von Bulow case and the Von Bulow court's elaboration on the general criteria used to determine whether one is a member of the class entitled to claim the reporter's privilege, there is no law or statute that formally defines who qualifies as a "photojournalist." However, from the Charleston Mail Ass'n v. Ranson case it is clear that news photographers and their photographs are covered by the privilege.

a. Definition.

As noted previously, a meeting is "the convening of a governing body of a public agency for which a quorum is required in order to make a decision or to deliberate toward a decision on any matter which results in an official action.