Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


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McBurney v. Young

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: October 5, 2012
Case #: 12-17
Court Below: Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, 667 F.3d 454 (2012)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/111099.P.pdf

Constitutional Law: Whether the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, which limits the right of access to public documents to Virginia citizens, violates the Constitution's Privileges and Immunities and dormant commerce clauses.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) limits the right of access to public documents to Virginia citizens. Petitioners requested public documents and were denied their requests on the grounds that they were not Virginia citizens. Petitioners brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that the VFOIA violated their rights of access to courts and pursuit of a common calling guaranteed under the Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause and prevented them from conducting business on equal terms with Virginia citizens in violation of the dormant commerce clause. The district court concluded that the VFOIA did not violate either the Privileges and Immunities Clause or the dormant commerce clause, and granted Respondents summary judgment.

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the VFOIA did not violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause because it did not limit Petitioners’ access to the courts, and that any effect on Petitioners’ ability to pursue a common calling was incidental. The court also reasoned that because the VFOIA’s commercial effects were indirect that it did not violate the dormant commerce clause.

On appeal, Petitioners renew their arguments that the VFOIA violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause and the dormant commerce clause, and ask the Court to resolve a circuit split between the Courts of Appeals for the Third and Fourth Circuits.