FOIA: A Virginia tradition, often flouted – Daily Press

Back in the 1600s, when Archbishop William Laud was using the secret Star Chamber as a court to punish Puritans and King Charles I used that same court to make law when he suspended Parliament, Virginia’s judges and elected lawmakers did their business in the public eye.

Openness in government and in the courts is a Virginia – and Peninsula – tradition.

After all, it was in response to a lawsuit filed by Warwick County clerk Henry DeBurgh Clay in 1891, after a Newport News election officer refused to let him copy voter registration records, that the Virginia Supreme Court issued one of the first rulings confirming the public’s right to see records.

The court rejected the election officer’s claim that the right to see his records applied only “so far as they concern” Clay’s own registration.

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