Maclay v. Jones

In Maclay v. Jones, 208 W. Va. 569, 542 S.E.2d 83 (2000), the plaintiffs, Donald and Karen Maclay, through a notice of deposition and subpoena duces tecum, requested records relative to an internal affairs investigation of complaints filed against a state trooper as well as the trooper's personnel file. In response, the defendant West Virginia State Police sought a protective order claiming that statutory and common law privileges prohibited disclosure of the requested information. Eventually, the circuit court certified questions to this Court for a determination of whether this type of information was subject to disclosure during civil litigation. In Syllabus Point 2 of Maclay, this Court determined that: "The provisions of this state's Freedom of Information Act, West Virginia Code 29B-1-1 to -7 (1998), which address confidentiality as to the public generally, were not intended to shield law enforcement investigatory materials from a legitimate discovery request when such information is otherwise subject to discovery in the course of civil proceedings." Thus, the Court held that: "Records and information compiled by an internal affairs division of a police department are subject to discovery in civil litigation arising out of alleged police misconduct if, upon an in camera inspection, the trial court determines that the requesting party's need for the material outweighs the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of such information." (Syllabus Point 3, Maclay.) However, the Court also stated that: "Before a circuit court is required to engage in an in camera inspection of records and information compiled by an internal affairs division of a police department to make a determination regarding the production of such documents through discovery, the party opposing disclosure must first make a substantial threshold showing that specific harms are likely to result from the disclosure of the requested materials." (Syllabus Point 4, Maclay.)