University Followed General Assembly Process in Response to Request for Review of Faculty Member's 34,000 E-Mails

May 26, 2011 — A statement from the University of Virginia, released May 25, in regard to a Freedom of Information Act request for access to e-mail messages written by and to a former faculty member:

In argument before the Circuit Court of Prince William County yesterday, counsel for the University represented to the Court that the University had been following the process established by the General Assembly for responding to complex Freedom of Information Act requests seeking voluminous records, where, as here, the request is so broadly worded and lengthy (11 pages).
 
See this website, which demonstrates that the University's Office of General Counsel has been in frequent and regular contact with counsel for the requesters, as encouraged by state law where there are disputes, seeking to clarify their request and to work out a reasonably manageable process that would respect the mandates of both federal and state law. In accordance with the resulting agreement that had developed from the professional cooperation of counsel for both sides, the University began review of the records and recently provided counsel for the requesters with the first responsive records. That delivery was made, pursuant to the working agreement with counsel for the requestors, notwithstanding their having filed suit.     
 
Judge Gaylord Finch took all of the substantive issues under advisement and said he would issue a ruling by June 15. He commented from the bench on how impressed he was at how much progress had been made on the request.
 
The court is expected to decide whether, as a matter of state law, the University is entitled to reimbursement for the cost of reviewing documents to be sure the records are both responsive and that disclosure will not violate specific federal and state law protections, or whether this cost must be borne by the taxpayers of Virginia.
 
Also, in their continuing cooperation in trying to manage an incredibly huge and costly project, counsel for the parties submitted to the Court a proposed order, which was accepted by the Court, stipulating to mutually agreeable deadlines.

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Carol S. Wood

Associate Vice President President's Office