RIGHT TO KNOW

Va. Supreme Court shields records on suspension of judge at center of Parole Board controversy

BY: - April 21, 2022

In a 4-2 opinion, the Supreme Court of Virginia refused to unseal judicial disciplinary records detailing why a Virginia Beach judge was suspended from the bench amid controversy over her past tenure as chair of the Virginia Parole Board. Judge Adrianne Bennett, who joined the Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court after stepping […]

COMMENTARY

In its arrogance, Virginia government continues walling off the public’s right to know

BY: - March 28, 2022

It may sound almost laughable now – a cruel joke, to be sure – but there was a time when Virginia had a decent Freedom of Information law. Maybe not the strongest, but workable. The commonwealth first enacted laws to reasonably make government documents and meetings open to the public in 1968. It was a […]

COMMENTARY
A storm passes over the Capitol. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury - Sept. 11, 2018)

Falsehoods, pandering to police and prosecutors overturned open-government law

BY: - March 16, 2022

It’s no surprise the General Assembly evinces a certain contempt for journalists. After all, we expose legislators’ shortcomings, hypocrisies and pettiness. Lawmakers don’t have to make my job any easier – and it’s rare when they do. Why those folks hold such disdain for Virginia’s residents, though, is puzzling. Because when legislators stick it to […]

COMMENTARY

Whether up in smoke or down the toilet, missing presidential records are a serious concern

BY: - February 15, 2022

By Shannon Bow O’Brien We may never get to the bottom of whether Donald Trump flushed documents down a White House toilet. “Fake story,” says the former president. “100 percent accurate,” retorts a reporter. But even without having to unclog plumbing in search of missing papers, national archivists have their work cut out trying to […]

COMMENTARY

Why a Virginia judge got it wrong on student COVID-19 data

BY: - September 15, 2021

Last week a Rockingham County Circuit Judge ruled in favor of James Madison University in a case brought by the editor of JMU’s student newspaper, The Breeze, over access to the per-day number of COVID-positive cases per on-campus residence. Armchair-quarterback that I am, I’ve read the ruling, and probably unsurprisingly, I disagree. The ruling says […]

The Virginia House of Delegates Appropriations Committee convened June 23 in what may have been its last virtual meeting.

Governance via Zoom is coming to an end in Virginia. Should it?

BY: and - June 28, 2021

For more than a year, policymakers across Virginia have been able to log on and conduct public business from whatever room, or car, they happen to be in. But public bodies will have to transition back to in-person meetings after June 30, the expiration date of the state of emergency Gov. Ralph Northam declared at […]

COMMENTARY

Change the culture of contempt for FOIA

BY: - May 20, 2021

One of the coverage areas the Mercury set out to focus on when we launched nearly three years ago was Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act and the issues that perennially swirl around it like the constant cloud of dirt that follows Pigpen from “Peanuts.” Virginia’s open records law doesn’t just suffer from problems with its […]

A Virginia lawmaker wants to make FOIA requests cheaper or free. Some government and police groups aren’t happy about it.

BY: - May 19, 2021

To make the case for why Virginia’s public-records law needs to work better for reporters and citizens alike, Del. Danica Roem told the story of a constituent, Stephanie Minor, who Roem said spent seven months fighting Prince William County Public Schools for access to video footage showing her autistic daughter being dragged off a school […]

FOIA bill allows some access to criminal investigation records

BY: - April 20, 2021

By Anya Sczerzenie/ Capital News Service A bill allowing the public access to limited criminal investigation records will go into effect in July, along with a handful of other bills related to government transparency. Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, a former television reporter, introduced House Bill 2004. The bill requires files related to non-ongoing criminal investigations […]

COMMENTARY

When facing a crisis, the front door is the best approach

BY: - March 9, 2021

Where should the proposed landfill be located? Who is the most qualified candidate to be the new school superintendent? How much did it cost to implement that program? Politic me would say in response to all three questions, “I really don’t know.” Impolitic me would say, “I really don’t care.” That is, I don’t know […]

Va. House committee advances bill giving FOIA exemption to new Northam cabinet officials

BY: - February 2, 2021

Two recently created cabinet-level positions in Gov. Ralph Northam’s office would gain a broad exemption from Virginia’s public-records laws under a bill advanced Tuesday by a House of Delegates committee. The legislation would extend the Virginia Freedom of Information Act’s working papers and correspondence exemption, often criticized by open-government advocates as creating a vaguely defined […]

COMMENTARY

Not so much ‘outright awful’: A round-up FOIA legislation in the 2021 session

BY: - January 22, 2021

If there is a silver lining to a clunky yet frenetic mostly-virtual General Assembly session, it is that there are fewer bills to sift through: 1,098 bills and resolutions this year compared with 3,911 last year. Consequently, there are also fewer bills affecting the Freedom of Information Act and access to government information than last […]