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the state Supreme Court in mid-March overturned a Circuit Court judge's decision ordering two newspapers to turn over unpublished photographs to a defendant on trial for murder.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

7. What court.

A petition under the Open Meetings Act must be filed in "the circuit court in the county where the public agency regularly meets." W. Va. Code § 6-9A-6. In extraordinary cases, a petition could be filed in the state Supreme Court, seeking a writ of mandamus or prohibition. See the preceding section, on the Freedom of Information Act, for a more detailed discussion of the availability of this remedy.

D. Other sources

The reported caselaw, i.e., Hudok v. Henry, is the sole source of the qualified reporter's privilege in West Virginia. There are no court rules, state bar guidelines, or administrative procedures that articulate a reporter's privilege.

a. Definition.

An executive session is "any meeting or part of a meeting of a governing body which is closed to the public." W. Va. Code § 6-9A-2(2). The Act specifies twelve topics that may be considered in such a closed session, and these are discussed later in this outline. No decision may be made in an executive session. W. Va. Code § 6-9A-4 (a).

2. Priority.

The FOIA confers priority on cases involving the denial of access to public records: "Except as to causes the court considers of greater importance, proceedings arising under [the FOIA] shall be assigned for hearing and trial at the earliest practicable date." W. Va. Code §  29B-1-5(3). Such a "priority" however, is left to the discretion of the trial court, which may consider other matters to be of greater importance.

J. Election records.

Election records are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Additionally, several statutes specifically mandate particular records to be maintained as public records open to inspection. See W. Va. Code § 3-1-7 (clerk of county commission must keep a bound book recording all proceedings creating or changing precincts, or establishing or changing voting places or precincts); W. Va. Code § 3-6-9 (county commission must keep a complete record of all vote canvassing proceedings).