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Court DIGs Boyer v. Louisiana, Affirms McBurney v. Young

The Supreme Court disposed of two more matters on its to-do list this morning, but it only issued one opinion.

Today, we have a unanimous opinion in McBurney v. Young and a DIG in Boyer v. Louisiana.

Let’s discuss what happened.

McBurney v. Young

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), provides that "all public records shall be open to inspection and copying by any citizens of the Commonwealth," but it grants no such right to non-Virginians.

Rhode Island resident Mark J. McBurney and California resident Roger W. Hurlbert learned that distinction the hard way, and sued Virginia for blocking them from getting public documents that Virginia residents could obtain through a FOIA request. Along with data and media companies, the two men challenged the preferential treatment that Virginia residents receive under the statute, The Associated Press reports.

So is the Virginia FOIA legal? Absolutely.

The Supreme Court held that Virginia's FOIA does not violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause, which protects only those privileges and immunities that are "fundamental."

The Court noted, "By means other than the state FOIA, Virginia made available to petitioners most of the information that they sought, and the Commonwealth's refusal to furnish the additional information did not abridge any constitutionally protected privilege or immunity. Nor did Virginia violate the dormant commerce clause. The state Freedom of Information Act does not regulate commerce in any meaningful sense, but instead provides a service that is related to state citizenship."

Boyer v. Louisiana

Boyer will now be remembered not only as the case that provoked Justice Clarence Thomas to speak during oral arguments, but also as a DIG dud. (DIG, for those of you who are new to the term, in abbreviation for petition dismissed as improvidently granted.)

In Boyer, the Court considered whether a state should be penalized in a speedy trial analysis for delaying a criminal trial because it doesn't have the funds to pay for the indigent defendant's counsel. Ultimately, however, a majority decided that the matter didn't warrant an actual opinion. In a concurring opinion to the DIG, Justice Alito noted that the defendant's attorneys were responsible for most of the seven years of delays in the trial, the AP reports.

Not all of the Justices shared that view. Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan, dissented, noting that "Boyer's case appears to be illustrative of larger, systemic problems in Louisiana."

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