Virginia courts exempt themselves from public record laws

The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that some internal court records are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The new rules bar the public from seeing records such as written personnel communications and documents used to create court orders.

Democratic Del. Mike Mullin says he’s concerned the ruling hides court finance and administration information. The court says the ruling is meant to protect the separation of the state’s judicial and legislative branches.

Legislation passed in 2018 required the state agency that oversees the courts to create a database listing what information is public. That legislation confirmed that the public is allowed to see general district court records. State law already said higher court records are supposed to be publicly available.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.