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West Virginia Freedom of Information Act

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The Freedom of Information Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in West Virginia.

The West Virginia Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: West Virginia FOIA procedures

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA

Here is a list of lawsuits in West Virginia. For more information go the page or go to West Virginia sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)

Lawsuit Year
4-H Road Com. v. W.Va. Univ. Foundation 1989
Affiiliated Construction Trades Foundation v. Regional Jail And Correctional Authority 1997
Appalachian Power Co. v. Public Service Commission 1979
Casto v. Board of Education 1894
Charleston Gazette v. City of Charleston 1998
Charleston Mail Association v. Kelly 1965
Child Protection Group v. Cline 1986
Daily Gazette v. West Virginia Board of Medicine 1986
Daily Gazette v. West Virginia Development Office 1996
Daily Gazette v. West Virginia State Bar 1984
Daily Gazette v. Withrow 1986
Hechler v. Casey 1985
Maclay v Jones 2000
McComas v. Board of Education of Fayette County 1996
Ogden Newspapers v. City of Charleston 1994
Queen v. W. Va. University Hospitals 1987
Richardson v. Town of Kimball 1986
State ex rel. Herald Mail Co. v. Hamilton 1980
State of West Virginia v. Brotherton 2003
State of West Virginia v. Harrison 1947
The Associated Press v. Canterbury 2009
Thompson v. W. Va. Board of Osteopathy 1994
Withrow v. Surface 1931

Proposed changes


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2011

We do not currently have any legislation for West Virginia in 2011.


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2010

We have no current bill pages for West Virginia from 2010. This may be due to incomplete research.


Main article: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2009

Senate Bill 252

Senate Bill 252[1] seeks to exempt certain disclosures under Freedom of Information Act. Same as HB2418.

House Bill 2418

House Bill 2418[2] - "Relating to exempting certain records of the Division of Corrections and Regional Jail Authority from the Freedom of Information Act that, if released, could aid inmates in committing unlawful acts." Same as SB252.

Transparency report card

A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked West Virginia #11 (along with Arizona and Illinois) in the nation with an overall percentage of 58.00%.[3]

A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave West Virginia 66 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "D," and a ranking of 10 out of the 50 states.[4]

A 2002 study, Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked West Virginia's law as the 9th best in the country, giving it a letter grade of "C+."[5]

Features of the law

Sunshine variations Compare States: Sunshine variations
Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.

=== Declared legal intention===

The declared legal intention of the West Virginia law states:
"Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government which holds to the principle that government is the servant of the people, and not the master of them, it is hereby declared to be the public policy of the state of West Virginia that all persons are, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments of government they have created. To that end, the provisions of this article shall be liberally construed with the view of carrying out the above declaration of public policy."[6]

=== What records are covered?=== West Virginia law defines records as "any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public's business, prepared, owned and retained by a public body."[7]


Notable exemptions include but are not limited to:

  • Trade secrets
  • Personal information
  • Examinations,
  • Law enforcement investigations
  • Archaeological and historic sites
  • Financial investigations
  • Internal memoranda
  • Security information for individuals infrastructure and electronics


==== Deliberative process====

=== What agencies are covered?=== West Virginia law defines agencies as all branches of government at both the state and local levels and all bodies created by those branches or funded by public money.[9]

==== Legislature====


The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at West Virginia Code, 29B-1-2 and is subject to the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

==== Privatized governmental agencies==== The West Virginia law includes all private agencies that receive public funds or were created by a public agency.[10]

==== Public universities====

Status: Presumed Open
Popular Exemptions
ResearchDonorsExaminationsCourse Materials
600px-Yes check.png

The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, testing and exam material are explicitly exempted under West Virginia Code, 29B-1-4.

=== Who may request records?=== Anyone may request public records in West Virginia. The law explicitly states that "every person has a right to inspect or copy any public record of a public body in this state."[12]

=== Must a purpose be stated?=== The law does not require a statement of purpose.

=== How can records be used?=== The law does not restrict the use of open records.

=== Time allowed for response===

5 days

West Virginia law allows for 5 business days for records request responses.[13]

Fees for records

==== Copy costs:==== West Virginia law allows for the charging of fees to reimburse the department for the cost of making the records but does not specify what factors affect those fees.[14]

==== Search fees:====


The West Virginia law is silent as to what factors can be added to constitute the cost of making a record available.[15]

=== Role of the Attorney General===

Attorney General of West Virginia

Although the state's Freedom of Information Act does not specifically mention the State Attorney General's role in the enforcement of the law, § 6-9A-12 of the West Virginia Code, under the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act, "it is the duty of the attorney general to compile the statutory and case law pertaining to this article and to prepare appropriate summaries and interpretations for the purpose of informing all public officials subject to this article of the requirements of this article."[16]

Open meetings

The West Virginia Open Meetings Act states that, "The people in delegating authority do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for them to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments of government created by them."[17]

See also

External links