Supreme Court: States can deny FOIAs from out-of-state residents

Sarah Hofmann Contributor
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The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday morning that states had the right to deny Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from non-residents. Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote the court opinion stating that, “This court has repeatedly made clear that there is no constitutional right to obtain all the information provided by FOIA laws.”

The ruling comes from a case brought by Rhode Island resident Mark J. McBurney and California resident Roger W. Hurlbert after their FOIA request for a child-support petition from McBurney’s divorce was denied, AP reports. The plaintiffs sued on grounds that denying their request was in violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause, as well as the dormant Commerce Clause.

“Requiring noncitizens to conduct a few minutes of Internet research in lieu of using a relatively cumbersome state FOIA process cannot be said to impose any significant burden,” Alito wrote.

Virginia is not the only state to have such provisions in place against non-residents being able to request information through the FOIA process. Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, New Hampshire and New Jersey all have limiting laws to their FOIA process.

The case, McBurney v. Young, 12-17, was first brought to the Supreme Court in April 2012, with main arguments heard in February 2013. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion with Alito.

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