West Virginia

3. Courts.

The Open Meetings Act excludes courts from its coverage. In the definition of public agency, it is stated that such term "does not include courts created by article eight of the West Virginia constitution or the system of family law masters created by article four [§ §  48A-4-1 et seq., repealed], chapter forty-eight-a of this code." This exclusion does not mean courts are permitted to meet in secret. Courts are required by Article III, Section 17 of the West Virginia Constitution to be open to the public.

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.

3. Transactions.

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

A. Exemptions in the open records statute.

"Three cardinal rules must be remembered in any FOIA case regardless of which exemption is claimed to be applicable. First, the disclosure provisions are to be liberally construed. Second, the exemptions are to be strictly construed. Finally, the party claiming exemption from the general disclosure requirement . . . has the burden of showing the express applicability of such exemption to the material requested." Daily Gazette v. W. Va. Development Office, supra, Syllabus pts. 1 and 2 (citations omitted).

Q. Students; discussions on individual students.

Another broad exemption under the Act authorizes executive sessions to discuss the "disciplining, suspension or expulsion of any student in any public school or public college or university, unless such student requests an open meeting." W. Va. Code § 6-9A-4(b)(3).

b. E-mail.

There have been no reported meetings conducted via computer, whether by way of an online chat or through e-mail.

c. Text messages.

There have been no reported meetings conducted using text messaging.

2. Others, including non-traditional news gatherers

In West Virginia, the reporter's privilege laws do not distinguish -- either by statutory language or by decisional law -- between traditional and so-called "non-traditional" news gatherers. There is no statute or case law addressing such non-traditional news gatherers as authors, freelancers, students, unpaid news gatherers, or academic researchers are entitled to the privilege, nor is there any statute or case law addressing whether others connected to the news process, such as newspaper librarians, may assert the privilege.