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Variably Sunny: SCOTUS Allows Local FOIA Restrictions

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the like-a-slapp-in-reverse dept.

United States 86

v3rgEz writes "The Supreme Court ruled Monday morning that states have the right to restrict public records access to locals, meaning one more hurdle to would-be muckrakers everywhere. Even in-state requesters are harmed: It means one more bureaucratic hurdle and another excuse for agencies to respond in paper rather than electronically. MuckRock has helped file requests in all 50 states — important for projects like the Drone Census — and we're looking for more volunteers to help ensure transparency from sea to shining sea. States impacted: Alabama; Arkansas; Delaware; Georgia; New Hampshire; New Jersey; Tennessee; and Virginia. If you live in one of the above, fill out a simple form and we can help ensure that sunshine isn't restricted depending on where you live."

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simple workaround (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591379)

The obvious workaround is hire a citizen to make the request for you.

This is so obvious, I'm not sure why they think limiting it to citizens is reasonable.

Re:simple workaround (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43592059)

Another problem with this is that it disallows anonymous requests.

You could be made to prove you're a citizen and in so doing reveal your identity.

Re:simple workaround (2)

number17 (952777) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592073)

Until the government stonewalls.

I used to follow the site illegalsigns.ca until its demise a year or two ago. They quite frequently crowdsourced FOIA requests until somebody in the City department decided they were frivolous. A decent article on what took place: http://torontoist.com/2008/04/no_stonewalling/ [torontoist.com] .

Re:simple workaround (1)

JeanInMontana (2020420) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592205)

<quote><p>The obvious workaround is hire a citizen to make the request for you.</p><p>This is so obvious, I'm not sure why they think limiting it to citizens is reasonable.</p></quote>

Well if a person has to pay to get info they will not be snooping into any and all they can for one, or they have to have a lot of money to spend.  It will stop sites like Spokeo.com from exploiting anything they can.  At least I hope it would.  It creates jobs. ;-)

Re:simple workaround (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43592335)

I had to read both TFS and your post multiple times before I understood that "restrict public records access to locals" meant that they are restricting everyone else from accessing those public records.

Re:simple workaround (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592373)

It's meant to be an impediment. Being reasonable has nothing to do with it.

One area the UK got right (2)

Albanach (527650) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591413)

While it took much longer for the UK to get a freedom of information act., it does seem much more powerful than that available in the US.

There's no cost for most inquiries (where the cost to the government body to respond is less than £600. It covers the bulk of public bodies. Anyone, anywhere on the world can use it. Replies are expected within 20 business days.

Combined with the Data Protection Act, and it seems UK citizens have far greater rights and protections when it comes to personal and public data than who live in the United States.

That's not to say the UK FOIA is perfect, far from it. Exceptions are too wide, and some government bodies can be obstructive. Still it has delivered useful information that would likely not have been discovered otherwise.

Re:One area the UK got right (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591543)

Too bad you have to live in a socialist distopian society to take advantage of it. How many people died in your horrible socialised health care system THIS week waiting for a simple procedure or something?

Re:One area the UK got right (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591653)

Yeah! Just imagine if Stephen Hawking had been British! He'd have never survived!

lol. [huffingtonpost.com]

Re:One area the UK got right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593239)

I think you meant "If [he] had been poor"... Healthcare isn't substantially different, just billed difrerently, for poor people in either country. Yup, been poor in both. Shitty healthcare.

Wow. Way to get it completely backward! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43599039)

No, the USA's healthcare for the VERY WEALTHY is excellent. If expensive.

UK's healthcare for the very wealthy sometimes means "Go to the USA (or Cuba)".

But the healthcare for the poor in the USA is practically nonexistent, and the UK's healthcare for the poor is very good (if slow).

The successive neo-libertarian governments of all wings of the political spectrum have been doing their damndest to screw up the national health service in the UK, so the cover isn't as good (partly because there are now so many "managers" and so few nurses, whilst the doctors make so much more privately they spend most of their time and effort there).

Re:One area the UK got right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591669)

Far less than died in the US. You do realize that the US ranks well below most of Western Europe in most measures of health care effectiveness right?

Re:One area the UK got right (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592791)

Except of course the likelihood of surviving more than five years after being diagnosed with cancer, where in most cases it ranks number one.

Re:One area the UK got right (-1, Troll)

guruevi (827432) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591733)

Probably close to none. How many people died in your horrible right-fundamentalist capitalist health care system THIS HOUR filling out forms or being denied care for lack of insurance in the emergency room?

Re:One area the UK got right (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591781)

No one is ever denied care for lack of insurance in the emergency room.
That's why that's where all the people without insurance go, emergency or not.

Re:One area the UK got right (4, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592155)

No one is ever denied care for lack of insurance in the emergency room.

That's simply not true. The ER does have to provide emergency care to stabilize a patient. If, however, you have cancer you can't just go to the ER for treatment. If you need an organ transplant to live you won't get one in the United States without some form of insurance/state coverage to pay for the operation and the ongoing costs. As your liver fails, you will be able to go to the ER to try and help reduce the toxins in your bloodstream or stem excessive bleeding. But once your life is no longer in danger and you are considered stabilized, you can be dischaged - even though the doctos know your only hope for survival is a transplant.

If you are older and break a bone, the ER will treat you and set the bone in a cast whether or not you have insurance. They won't however cover the cost of physiotherapy to help you walk again afterwards.

There are many who visit horpital emergency rooms and are denied the care they need to function or indeed to live.The largest for-profit network of hospitals, HCA, now demand up-front payment from ER patients if their condition is deemed to be not a true emergency.

Re:One area the UK got right (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591873)

Regular doctor visits, yes. It's illegal to deny someone in an emergency room insurance or not. Has been for years.

Re:One area the UK got right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43595819)

Yeah, they're legally required only make sure you don't die inside of their lobby. Do the bare minimum, send you home to die on your own later, and then harass your estate for tens of thousands of dollars. How does the ER help me if I have an easily-treatable form of cancer?

Re:One area the UK got right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591741)

How many people in the US were bankrupted this week because they had a simple procedure?

Re:One area the UK got right (2)

JabberWokky (19442) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592477)

There's no cost for most inquiries (where the cost to the government body to respond is less than £600. It covers the bulk of public bodies. Anyone, anywhere on the world can use it. Replies are expected within 20 business days.

Are you sure you'e not comparing it to Sunshine laws? What you're describing sounds like the already existing set of laws that demand most government bodies operate transparently and have openly available records (often requiring they be available online for instant viewing for free, in more recent updates). The FOIA allows citizens to request sealed and classified information: it is reviewed against a set of very limited criteria, and if it doesn't fit any, it is released. If only portions fit, those parts of the information are struck out and the rest released.

There is some overlap between Sunshine laws and FOIA, and Sunshine laws tend to be State laws, versus FOIA, which is Federal. But most of what government agencies do in the US is already a matter of public record, and has been such from the beginning (in the past resulting in vast libraries of printed material).

Re:One area the UK got right (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593515)

One other, rather major, difference: the UK is governed by the crown, full stop. The crown might choose to limit some of its powers (e.g., the Magna Carta), or delegate them to Parliament, but as a legal entity it can more or less do whatever the hell it wants, and when it makes a rule, it will apply to every level of government below it. The federal government of the US is powerful, but it can't actually force state governments to do a lot of things if they don't want to. (They can, of course, make that resistance very painful.)

Re:One area the UK got right (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593687)

I would guess that the only reason the crown still has that power is that they never use it. As soon as a monarch tries to overrule Parliament, I suspect that the power would be taken away, and not necessarily politely.

Re:One area the UK got right (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43597063)

The power is being exercised through Parliament, but it is still the crown's power even if the possessor of the crown no longer controls all of it. The UK is a divine right monarchy that has had various limitations placed on the monarch, some of which have essentially divested the monarch of more than a ceremonial role, but the government still has those powers unless it has signed them away. The US government is fundamentally limited by what the Constitution says it can do. And in an awful lot of circumstances, it can't tell states what to do.

Re:One area the UK got right (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year and a half ago | (#43597143)

it is still the crown's power

In case the crown ever gets uppity, here are two predecessors to mention: Charles I and James II.

Re:One area the UK got right (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43597471)

The crown is that uppity all the time. The monarch, not so much.

The basis of UK law is divine right monarchism with limitations thrown on. The basis of US law is a written constitution that carefully circumscribes the powers of government. Even though both countries have common law systems, their fundamental structures are radically different.

The UK HAS a written constitution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43599053)

Indeed the first one. The Magna Carta.

Just because it isn't *called* "the constitution" doesn't mean it isn't.

Re:The UK HAS a written constitution. (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43605827)

The Magna Carta is a set of limitations on the power of the crown, agreed to by the crown. It is absolutely one of the inspirations of the US Constitution. But it is not the US Constitution, which quite clearly specifies what the powers of the government are, not just what they are not. As it turns out, society has agreed to let legislators just ignore inconvenient portions of the constitution, but that's not the authors' fault.

One person (4, Interesting)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591427)

If with all the Internet at your disposal you can't find one single person in the state willing to submit the FOIA request and pass you back the results, it's a good sign you're wasting everybody's time and *shouldn't* have access to the information you seek.

Re:One person (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591607)

True. It makes much more sense to err on the side of not wasting the government's time than on the side of government transparency.

Re:One person (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43592017)

Seriously? "Waste the Government's time" a body solely employed by the citizenry? Are you fucking mental?

Re:One person (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43592131)

Whoosh!

Re:One person (4, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592295)

It's not the government's time. As a citizen of Virginia, it's my time. *I* paid for it.

Re:One person (2)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592407)

And in case it wasn't clear, I don't want some dope from California wasting my Virginia tax dollars on some paranoid quest to find out what Virginia knows about alien abductions. If you can't at least find a like-minded Virginian to sign his name to the request, something is seriously wrong with the request.

Re: One person (1)

Patent Lover (779809) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592697)

You're not a "citizen" of Virginia, you're a resident (as am I). You're correct about funding issue, though. however, these states should allow out of state residents to pay for these requests rather than just denying them outright.

Re: One person (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593215)

Check your civics boss. According to the 14th Amendment, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Re: One person (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593635)

The only mention of citizen in the Virginia Constitution is a citizen of the United States. The point is moot anyways. The court case only deals with residents.

Re: One person (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593723)

Virginia considers you not merely to be a citizen of the country and of the state but also a citizen of your locality within the state.

Section 5. County, city, and town governing bodies.

Whenever the governing body of any such unit shall fail to perform the duties so prescribed in the manner herein directed, a suit shall lie on behalf of any citizen thereof to compel performance by the governing body.

Re: One person (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43602313)

"..are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside"

Virginia is incorporated as a Commonwealth, not a State.

Re: One person (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43593277)

No, he's not correct about the funding issue. Virginia FOIA allows the charging the requestor fees to cover the costs of preparing the information. The F in FOIA stands for Libre -- not Gratis.

"A public body may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records."
(http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+2.2-3704)

Re: One person (1)

desdinova 216 (2000908) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593429)

so that's Free as open as opposed to Free as in no charge?

Re: One person (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593491)

Actually, you are a citizen of your state first, and THEN a citizen of the United States.

Re: One person (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43597135)

"Actually, you are a citizen of your state first, and THEN a citizen of the United States."

Nope. That's the pre-fourteenth amendment way things were done. States could deny state citizenship to whoever they want, and in turn that meant no US citizenship either. Now, the fourteenth amendment makes everyone born here a US citizen. You then reside in whatever state you want.

Re:One person (2)

Anarchy24 (964386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591639)

A Congressional audit has found extreme waste in the document security system... classified documents are very burdensome to track and secure. I believe it was something like 30% of all documents contain no sensitive information whatsoever. The government opposes releasing information because it can make them look bad by exposing wasteful spending, secret investigations where prosecution was declined, or the government intentionally poisoning its soldiers to test chemical weapons and "cures". A very small percentage of documents are secret because they stand to damage national security. Most are secret to cover up bad behavior because the contents would make some important people look bad.

Re:One person (2)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592429)

The overwhelming majority of classified documents are classified because they were derived in part from some other document that was classified and were written by a government contractor who is not authorized to declassify any portion the prior document marked classified.

Even if that weren't true, it has no bearing on a state government's response to FOIA requests. Classification is purely a Federal government thing where Federal FOIA rules apply.

Re:One person (1)

Anarchy24 (964386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592567)

My point stands: the majority of information is unjustifiably secret and should be released without issue, and a lot of what remains makes people look bad. Also, the government intentionally drags its feet, "loses" documents (yeah... but they can find an original income tax receipt from 40 years ago), and redacts entire pages of everything except the "the"s and the "is"s There is a reason that the government fights so hard against releasing this information, and it definitely isn't for our own good.

Heck, look at the Manning leaks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43599057)

Lots of people going over the leaks and saying "there's nothing there! just politicians talking smack about foreign politicians! EVERYONE knows that happens!!!", well they were classified too.

9th amendment (2)

Anarchy24 (964386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591467)

The SCOTUS loves to ignore the 9th amendment. They seem to find all these restrictions on civil liberties all over the place, because things aren't explicitly enumerated. Oh wait. "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Re:9th amendment (0)

Anarchy24 (964386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591491)

And they ignore the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth amendments too. But they worship the 2nd amendment!

Re:9th amendment (2)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591519)

As long as there's a postage stamp sized piece of land somewhere in the country where you can exercise your rights, they have not been infringed.

Re:9th amendment (1)

Anarchy24 (964386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591547)

You aren't secure in your own home. You can be indefinitely detained without cause, trial or recourse. Cops are abusive. Soldiers with machine guns around town. Yeah, I feel real safe. My rights are most definitely infringed.

And why is that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591641)

And they ignore the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth amendments too. But they worship the 2nd amendment!

And why is that?

Because the 2nd Amendment has the most devoted (or rabid depending on your views) defenders.

The NRA is one of the most effective lobbying organization ever. Think about it: they say the stupidest shit in the media - so stupid even the Reps behind them say it's stupid - and yet, all those bans on assault rifles and AR-15s quietly disappeared.

It was also a wonderful coincidence that some Muslims used pressure cookers to cause all the mayhem they did. It's kind of hard to point fingers at a AR-15 when a couple of kids did much more damage with something readily available from any department store.

Maybe if folks who were really intent on limiting government power (like use of drones) were just as rabid, these politicians would be a little less bold? ( And maybe cluing the NRA on that these drones will enable the Government to "take their guns" would help too.)

Re:And why is that? (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593667)

It's not just their devotion - it's their numbers. There are hardcore, dedicated activists for just about any position you can think of.

What makes gun owners different is that there are millions of them who consider the Second Amendment to be the basis of all other freedoms and who will accordingly campaign, donate, and vote against anyone, regardless of their party and regardless of anything else they do, who appears to threaten gun rights. That's why the NRA is powerful. It doesn't hurt their cause that long experience has shown that regardless of what gun-control advocates say, what they want is to ban essentially all guns in private hands - it means that calls for "common-sense reforms" are interpreted as the beginning of a slippery slope.

Re:And why is that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43594019)

I think that what makes them different is that they own something that can fucking kill you. People tend to listen under those circumstances.

It's a joke, kids, nothing more...

Re:9th amendment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591549)

This is what happens when we have right-wing morons as justices, who do whatever Republicans and big business say.

Re:9th amendment (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591589)

How does this ignore the 9th amendment? The constitution restricts the federal goverement not state goverment. Some things restrict state goverment because of the 14th amendment. But FOIA requests are not an equal protection issue unless states try to withould information about a protected group.

Re:9th amendment (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591633)

The constitution restricts nothing. It grants powers to the government. Anything not explicitly granted is prohibited.

Re:9th amendment (3, Insightful)

Zak3056 (69287) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591813)

The constitution restricts nothing. It grants powers to the government. Anything not explicitly granted is prohibited.

"Congress shall make no law," "shall not be infringed," "excessive bail shall not be required," etc, sure sound like restrictions to me.

Re:9th amendment (1)

kimvette (919543) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592433)

The bill of rights is a group of amendments which further clarify that we are endowed inalienable natural rights by our creator (be that creator YHWH, FSM, zeus, or random chance)

Re:9th amendment (2)

_xeno_ (155264) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592741)

"Congress shall make no law," "shall not be infringed," "excessive bail shall not be required," etc, sure sound like restrictions to me.

Congratulations on demonstrating why the founding fathers didn't want to create the Bill of Rights in the first place.

Those aren't restrictions - they're clarifications. The government never had those powers in the first place, because they were never granted to them. All the Bill of Rights does is spell it out in plain language that these are things that the government cannot do.

(Which it does anyway: see gun control, health care laws, obscenity laws, and most recently, the refusal to allow the Boston marathon bomber his right to an attorney.)

The Tenth Amendment tries to make this clear, but no one ever bothers to pay it any attention.

Re:9th amendment (1)

Zak3056 (69287) | about a year and a half ago | (#43593595)

I agree with you 100%, and am also disheartened by the lack of attention paid to the 9th and 10th amendments. I was merely being pedantic.

Re:9th amendment (1)

fwice (841569) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592187)

replying to remove incorrect mod!

Re:9th amendment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43592241)

>Anything not explicitly granted is prohibited.

Wrong: anything not expressly granted defaults to the people, that is the entire reason for the 9th amendment. Get a clue...

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Re:9th amendment (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a year and a half ago | (#43602691)

It grants powers to the federal goverement. Anything not explicity granted is prohibited by the federal goverment. State constitutions grant powers to state goverment.

Re:9th amendment (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591643)

Don't interrupt a good rant with facts and logic.

Re:9th amendment (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591609)

The non-enumerated (and most of the enumerated) rights are generally seen as restrictions on what the State may no, rather than mandates of what the state must do. People have more or less the same rights as before. But it seems a State only has an obligation to act when one of its residents or citizens makes the request.

Re:9th amendment (4, Informative)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591637)

How does the ninth amendment even apply, in any way? The FOIA isn't in the constitution at all. Anyways, the SCOTUS found a long (long) time ago that the 9th amendment only applies to the federal government and isn't enforceable against the states, so even if it was in some way relevant, it still wouldn't apply, as this is a state-level FOIAs that the ruling was on.

Re:9th amendment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591825)

the SCOTUS found a long (long) time ago that the 9th amendment only applies to the federal government and isn't enforceable against the states

Obviously, since the states' authority is independent of and prior to the Constitution.
The 10th Amendment repeats, for those who didn't get it, that all powers not addressed in the Constitution belong to the states.

10th amendment (4, Informative)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592111)

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

It seems that State held information is a State matter and not a federal one.
It is interesting that people look upon the US as a monolithic country when it was formed more as a confederation of independent States. The states guard their sovereignty very strongly. The SCOTUS appears to see FOI requests from different states the same as FOI requests from different countries and, as it is the way the US is set up, it should. If a State does not want to respond to FOI requests from different States or countries there is no Federal power that requires them to.

Here is a quote from the decision;

The state FOIA essentially represents a mechanism by which those who ultimately hold sovereign power (i.e., the citizens of the Commonwealth) may obtain an accounting from the public officials to whom they delegate the exercise of that power.

Laws don't apply to the state! (0)

danbuter (2019760) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591735)

Or if they do, the Supreme Court will fix them so they don't. Too many chances of real corruption being exposed if people can get information on what the state does.

Re:Laws don't apply to the state! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43592419)

The Supreme Court, like every court in the US, doesn't make law. They may rule on the legality of it, but laws are created by legislators, whether that's the US Congress or the state analogues.

Re:Laws don't apply to the state! (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592591)

The people of Virgina can access their information that way. Most of the rest these out-of-state people wanted they got through other means. One guy wanted his own records related to his kids...and got it. Another wanted info already on the Internet by Virginia, and ruling he had to spend a few minutes surfing to get it rather than the cumbersome FOIA process was hardly "burdensome".

Also, there is no constitutional right to records -- it has never been considered so historically, and is something elected officials did because citizens demanded it. Indeed, the right to inspect other peoples' records has historically been seen as a no-no.

So if the records don't concern you directly (you, a court case, property you may want to buy, all of which have mechanisms) and you are not a Virginia citizen, tough shit. FOIA doesn't help you.

Re:Laws don't apply to the state! (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43596069)

Which law do you see as being broken by the Virginia? People who reside in Virginia can get the information. It is just people out of Virginia who can not file FOI requests.

I'm confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591753)

The summary seems to state that this is a good thing as it means information is less publicly available to people trying to spread misinformation about others. (being a muckraker is a bad thing, right? Doesn't it mean stirring up dirt to unfairly discredit a person or agency?) But the site itself seems to be in favor of increased transparency.

Perhaps it's just the wording, do they mean "restrict access to locals" as in locals have a harder time accessing records or that only locals can access the information?

Re:I'm confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43592725)

They mean that people that aren't local can't submit information requests. Only citizens of a given state need to be allowed to make information requests (although it's the state's choice if they even want to have that requirement). MuckRock thinks it's a bad thing because they can't just up and ask "all 50 states" to waste their time looking up whatever information MuckRock wants anymore.

Excuse me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43591787)

Who the fuck is MuckRock and why is there a link to create an account in the goddamn summary?

That's downright shady. Now any passing interest I had has been converted instantly to mistrust and skepticism. Good job. Now I have to go out of my way to do some research. Oh, look, they're some sort of transparency organization, but they don't even have a wikipedia page and their own website's about us page is sorely lacking. Yeah, no thanks.

Re:Excuse me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43592739)

I, personally, loved the comment on their site saying "sign up for a free account - a $40/month value".

and thus in doing so (1)

nimbius (983462) | about a year and a half ago | (#43591789)

ever more legitimized wikileaks.

Mistagged - Better Conclusion would be.... (3, Informative)

Notabadguy (961343) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592071)

FTFA.....

Summing up what the court had to say:

1. The government of a state works for the citizens of that state - who pay their salary. Not for non-state residents.
2. Information that is freely available online or at a clerk's office does not need to be provided through a FOIA request.
3. You do not have the right to treat the government of another state like a slave.

This (might be) a good thing. (4, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592091)

I admit, I haven't read the full thing, but as soon as I made it 1/2 a page in, I had to respond ...

First off, this doesn't seem to be about the federal FOIA, it's about a state's act. And the limit here is that states don't have to respond to people who aren't citizens of their states. The 2006 Lee v. Minner decision (458 F.3d 194) found that Delaware wasn't allowed to have such a clause in their FOIA, so this isn't even going to affect all states.

That being said, I'm an elected municipal official in Maryland (which falls under the Lee vs. Minner ruling, as I understand it) ... and it's possible that we'd get sued under the equivalent Maryland law, as someone recently tried to demand from us *EVERY* *LAST* business transaction that we made for the last 7 years. (I can't remember the exact wording; it's possible that we claim that the report requested was a 'new record' and thus something that didn't exist) Mind you, we have 8 employees, 3 of whom are police officers, and 3 of whom are public works. So that'd mean that we'd have to tie up our accountant or town clerk for weeks to go through all of the records, properly sanitize everything to keep from leaking restricted information (like PII, as we're so small that we have a single system that also handles payroll), which would mean that we couldn't actually serve our citizens in the process.

Why did the person want this it? Because they were starting a website to charge businesses for access to this information.

If a person has a legitimate need for the information, they should be able to get a citizen of the state to file the request on their behalf. How much time has been wasted in Hawaii by responding to birth certificate requests over the last few years?

(note; I have a full time job and don't participate in the day-to-day operations of our town; I have no idea how the request ended up playing out (or if it's finished playing out yet); I believe it was sent to our attorney to deal with)

Re:This (might be) a good thing. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592685)

The 2006 Lee v. Minner decision (458 F.3d 194) found that Delaware wasn't allowed to have such a clause in their FOIA, so this isn't even going to affect all states.

Lee v. Minner is a ruling from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. The SCOTUS is a higher court and therefore its opinion would supersede the lower court's opinion.

Re:This (might be) a good thing. (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year and a half ago | (#43595033)

http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Maryland_FOIA_procedures [sunshinereview.org]

The Maryland law allows departments to charge a reasonable fee which includes both the cost of duplication as well as any staff time in excess of 2 hours involved in the search, compilation, or reproduction of materials. Waivers are permitted considering the person requesting the documents financial status and the public interest in the release of the information.

Make a reasoned guess at how many hours it'd take someone to compile and sanitize the records,
multiply by the hourly wage of a temp, then add in a fudge factor because stuff always take longer,
then add in another fudge factor because everything the temp does will need to be reviewed.
You send that dollar number to the FOIA requester and ask if they still want the documents.

Why did the person want this it? Because they were starting a website to charge businesses for access to this information.

Good for him, but without a compelling public interest, there's no reason he shouldn't bear the cost of the request.

Re:This (might be) a good thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43596719)

Show them to the file room under the conditions that either a hired security guard will watch them and they will pay for it or you hire someone to go through it and bill them for it (plus other fees like copy machine usage fees, overtime, etc... and get some of it upfront)

Nothing says FOIA requests can't be charged for to compensate the local govt. for their time/effort. as long as the charges are reasonable but since they wanted all records well they will have to pay for them. (unreasonable request deserve unreasonable charges)

I say hand them encrypted versions and say have fun (nothing says you have to sort it and provide it in "their" readable format for them)

Related Wire Report (1, Funny)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year and a half ago | (#43592269)

"And in a rare double-whammy decision, the right wing of the court declared the Confederate States of America legal and instructed the Northern Aggressors to cough up war reparations. Most reporters present agreed Justice Thomas hadn't quite thought his vote completely through."

just in case you didn't notice (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43592461)

It was a UNANIMOUS decision. Whatever you may think of Sarah Palin's politics, she was forced to step down as the governor of Alaska because of the cost of out-of-state FOIA requests to such a small state. If this has a cost so prohibitive that the corporations without any employees in a state can actually undermine the will of the voters of the state, then stopping such a practice is a Good Thing(TM).

Re:just in case you didn't notice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43594691)

Huh, in our universe, Palin stepped down because she was an incompetent blowhard attention-whore who wanted to milk the media circus created by her inept vice-presidential candidacy before her 15 minutes of fame expired. Which universe did you say you were from?
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