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RCFP commends Third Circuit for declaring FOIA residency restriction unconstitutional

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  1. Freedom of Information
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today enthusiastically endorsed the opinion issued by the federal appeals court in…

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today enthusiastically endorsed the opinion issued by the federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruling that the benefits of Delaware’s public records laws must be made available to any person who requests them, regardless of state residency.

Writing for the three-judge circuit panel, Judge D. Brooks Smith, said, “Delaware’s public records law discriminates on its face between citizens and non-citizens.”

“This is an important victory for public access that travels beyond Delaware,” said Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Pennsylvania and New Jersey have similar statutes and are both in same federal judicial circuit as Delaware. This decision should mean a change in their laws as well.”

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit back in Nov. 2005, the Reporters Committee joined with newsletter publisher Matthew Lee and his attorney David Vladeck of the Georgetown University Law Center in asking the court to declare Delaware’s state Freedom of Information unconstitutional based on its discriminatory provisions against anyone residing outside of the state.

Vladeck said that he will “probably bring more litigation” seeking similar results in other states that have state-citizenship requirements in their public records laws.

Delaware Attorney General Carl C. Danberg said the state will not seek further review of the court’s decision, according to published reports.