West Virginia

I. Introduction: History & Background

Generally speaking, the status of the reporter's privilege in West Virginia is strong. Although the contours of the privilege are not as developed as they are through caselaw in other states, and there is no statutory shield law, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has fashioned a strong privilege to protect reporters, especially in civil cases. Because of the strength of the privilege, incidences of reporters being jailed or fined over privilege issues have been exceedingly rare in West Virginia.

4. What issues will the court address?

In a judicial proceeding under the Open Meetings Act, the court will address any issue arising under the statute, including a request for an order in a particular pending meeting be open, establishing general rules concerning access to future meetings, and invalidating decisions made at illegal meetings. McComas v. Fayette County Board of Education, supra. The 1999 amendments create addition issues that a court may be called upon to address.

C. What records are and are not subject to the act?

(This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

d. Instant messaging.

There have been no reported meetings conductedvia instant messaging.

B. Separation orders

West Virginia case law and statutes do not address separation orders issued against reporters who are both trying to cover the trial and are on a witness list. Anecdotally, this problem has occurred in federal cases in West Virginia, although reporters have resolved the issue by informally persuading the party who named them to remove them from the list.

B. Probate


West Virginia

b. If an oral request is denied:

If an oral request is denied, the agency should be asked to provide the denial in writing, as required by the Freedom of Information Act. If this request is refused, or if the denial does not specifically and correctly describe what records were requested, a written record of what was requested should be made together with the reasons given for the denial. If a clerk, or someone other than the actual "custodian" of the records made the denial, a formal written request should be directed to the custodian.

G. Reporter's personal observations

In general, the law in West Virginia does not differ in its treatment of the privilege on the basis of whether the information was obtained by the reporter as an eyewitness. However, it should be remembered that the likelihood of breaching the privilege is much higher if the party issuing the subpoena can show the reporter is an eyewitness to crucial information, and the reporter is the only source of that crucial information the party is seeking. In this regard, the Hudok court explained:

A. Is there a right to participate in public meetings?

The Open Meetings Act does not address the issue of the public's right to comment at public meetings. Section 6-9A-3 provides that "persons who desire to address the governing body may not be required to register more than fifteen minutes prior to [the] time the scheduled meeting is to commence." The statute does not explicitly provide a public right to comment and there are no West Virginia cases addressing this issue.

3. Commission or agency enforcement.

Neither the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act nor the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act provides for commission or agency enforcement.