West Virginia

1. Civil contempt

In West Virginia, there is very little, if any history of reporters being fined or jailed for failure to comply with a subpoena. There is no statute or caselaw specifically addressing contempt proceedings where a reporter refuses to comply with a subpoena. Generally speaking however, although Rules 11, 16, and 37 of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure do not formally require any particular procedure, before issuing a contempt sanction, a court must ensure it has an adequate foundation either pursuant to the rules or by virtue of its inherent powers to exercise its authority.

b. Deliberations toward decisions.

The Open Meetings Act does not mention deliberations toward decisions. Before McComas, supra, the West Virginia Supreme Court had held that deliberations toward decisions constitute an adjudicatory session, exempt from the Act under W. Va. Code § 6-9A-2(4) (Appalachian Power, supra) and deliberations seemed to be exempt from the public's constitutional right of access to adjudicatory proceedings under the State Bar and Board of Medicine decisions.

V. PROCEDURE FOR OBTAINING RECORDS

This section addresses the most frequently asked question under the Freedom of Information Act: "How do I file an FOIA request?"

D. How is e-mail treated?

In Canterbury, the Court held that “[a] trial court's determination of whether personal e-mail communication by a public official or employee is a public record, subject to disclosure under the [FOIA] . . . is restricted to an analysis of the content of the e-mail and does not extend to a context-driven analysis because of public interest in the record.”

(2). Commission or independent agency.

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

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

Although the Open Meetings Act does not spell out the notice requirements for most public bodies, it does include a very specific penalty for the failure to provide adequate notice in accordance with the statute. Where an "adversely affected party" files a petition challenging the public agency's action, any court of competent jurisdiction "may invalidate any action taken at any meeting for which notice did not comply" with the notice requirements of the Act. W. Va. Code §  6-9A-3.

E. Confidential and/or non-confidential information

The Hudok court concluded that the reporters' qualified privilege applied equally to both confidential and non-confidential information obtained by the reporter in his/her newsgathering role.

2. Informal telephone inquiry as to status.

Unless the agency has clearly indicated its intention to refuse the request, however, an informal telephone inquiry regarding the status of the request is advisable if the response is not received within the time limit. If the initial request was oral, or was made to someone other than the official "custodian" of the records, a written inquiry directed to the custodian — including a reminder that you will seek reimbursement for attorneys' fees if the agency's failure to respond necessitates legal action — would be preferable.