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Court: Delaware must open public records.

A federal appeals court has ordered Delaware to open its public records to nonresidents, upholding a lower court ruling.

In a decision that could affect other states' Freedom of Information (FOI) Act laws, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has ruled that a section of Delaware's FOI Act is unconstitutional because it does not allow nonresidents access to public records.

The case, Lee v. Minner, began with a 2003 lawsuit filed against the state by a New York resident and journalist, Matthew Lee, who said he was denied access to Delaware records involving a national bank. Lee had requested information about lending practices between Delaware state officials and Household International, now part of HSBC.

According to an Associated Press (AP) report, Delaware officials had contended that opening records to nonresidents would "disrupt the right of residents to maintain their own political community." The court, however, said nonresidents have the right to cross state lines to explore matters of national importance.

Legal experts say Lee v. Minner may produce ripple effects in other jurisdictions because little case law on the subject exists. According to the AP, a dozen other states have similar language in their open-records laws, although some interpret "citizens" to mean U.S. citizens.

Edited by Nikki Swartz
COPYRIGHT 2006 Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:UP FRONT
Author:Swartz, Nikki
Publication:Information Management Journal
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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