Are state courts FOIAable?

Massey Energy filed a lawsuit seeking e-mails of West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher.

Massey, of Richmond, Virginia, sued the court under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act looking for e-mails written or received by Justice Starcher from 2004 to 2008 that refer to Massey or its CEO, Don Blankenship.

Massey wants to appeal a $220 million verdict in an unrelated lawsuit and apparently believes that it is within the realm of possibility that undue influence or special interest pressures might have been brought to bear on Justice Starcher.

The lawsuit was dismissed on technical grounds–not substantive grounds.

I’m looking forward to seeing in the next few years how state courts will cope with the increasing desire for access to public records. In some states, courts are not subject to FOIA for various reasons, some good, some not so good. I can appreciate a good separation of powers argument. But, surely, if a state supreme court justice is canoodling around on his or her email with a party to litigation…these records should be available to the public.


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