West Virginia

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

Secret Courts | Feature | August 9, 1999
Feature
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
Feature
April 21, 1997

Reporter's privilege upheld in murder trial

04/21/97

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the state Supreme Court in mid-March overturned a Circuit Court judge's decision ordering two newspapers to turn over unpublished photographs to a defendant on trial for murder.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
Feature
June 17, 1996

Private session with school administrators violated meetings law

06/17/96

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
Feature
May 16, 1995

Judge quashes subpoenas issued by criminal defendant

05/16/95

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.

H. Media as a party

In West Virginia, the privilege is applied differently to libel cases (especially where a media entity is a party), and non-libel cases. The important distinction does not appear to be based solely on the reporter or media entity's status as a party-defendant, but is based on whether the claim made is one for libel. Presumably, where a reporter's published work has led to a libel claim, even where the reporter is not made a party-defendant to the lawsuit, a lower level of protection is applied.

3. Local or municipal.

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

1. Do text messages and/or instant messages constitute a record?

There have been no court decisions indicating whether text messages and/or instant messages constitute a “public record” under West Virginia FOIA. However, depending on the specific circumstances, the holding of Associated Press v. Canterbury, supra. is likely to be instructive insofar as the Court in Associated Press. In that case, the Court recognized that e-mail communications fall within the scope of “writings” covered by the West Virginia FOIA. Text and instant messages are likely to be viewed in the same light.

12. Sex offender records.

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

B. Pretrial proceedings

Overview

West Virginia

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.