Federal appeals court rules Delaware public records statute unconstitutional

[JURIST] Delaware must make their public documents available to residents of other states, according to a ruling [PDF text] handed down Wednesday by the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Delaware's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] as written prevents non-residents from accessing Delaware public records, but the federal appeals court ruled that the statute violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the US Constitution.

Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith wrote for the 2-1 court that

[S]ome events which take place in an individual state may be relevant to and have an impact upon policies of not only the national government but also of the states. Accordingly, political advocacy regarding matters of national interest or interests common between the states plays an important role in furthering a vital national economy" and "vindicat[ing] individual and societal rights. Effective advocacy and participation in the political process, however, require access to information...[a]ccess to records is the hallmark of effective participation in democracy. The very purpose of a freedom of information law is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society.
Eight other states have FOIA regimes similar to the to one struck down as unconstitutional in Wednesday's ruling. The News Journal of Delaware has local coverage.


 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.