West Virginia

A. Who may attend?

Any member of the public may attend a meeting subject to the Open Meetings Act.

C. Court mandated opening, closing.

As discussed previously, the open courts mandate of the state constitution provides a broad right of public access to judicial and quasi-judicial proceedings.

8. Confessions.

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

5. Have agencies imposed prohibitive fees to discourage requesters?

The use of prohibitive fees is an obvious, and favorite, tactic used by public agencies wishing to discourage requests. On one occasion, for example, West Virginia University initially demanded payment of over eight hundred dollars in search fees and 'overhead costs' for producing a document a few pages long. The fee was subsequently waived after objections were raised.

3. Nature of appeal

There is no "appeal by right" to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals; the acceptance of an appeal by that court is entirely discretionary. A party may seek extraordinary relief in the Supreme Court by filing a Petition for Writ of Prohibition or for Writ of mandamus to preclude enforcement of the circuit court's ruling or to compel the court to rule in the correct manner. Like a Petition for Appeal, Petitions for extraordinary writs, such as Prohibition or Mandamus are discretionary.

1. Civil

In most civil cases, the level of protection afforded the reporter in West Virginia is quite good. As stated by the state Supreme Court of Appeals in Hudok v. Henry, the party seeking to compel information from a reporter generally must show "clearly and specifically" that the information sought from the reporter is (1) "highly material and relevant, necessary or critical to the maintenance of the case"; and (2) "not obtainable from other available sources." Thus, the burden on a party in a civil case seeking information from a non-party reporter is very high.

9. Appointed as well as elected bodies.

Whether an agency is appointed or elected makes no difference under the Open Meetings Act as long as it is a public agency.

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.

3. Student records.

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