Richardson v. Town of Kimball
In Richardson v. Town of Kimball, 176 W. Va. 24, 340 S.E.2d 582 (1986), a citizen, Jackson Richardson, asked the Town of Kimball to allow him, in conformance with statutory law, to inspect selected municipal court traffic records.
The Town denied the request. Richardson was thereby forced to institute legal action. In his lawsuit, Richardson requested the right to inspect and copy selected public records and an award of attorney fees. The circuit court dismissed the action.
The Court reversed on appeal, finding that municipal court traffic records fall within the general statutory law which requires that court records be open to public inspection unless a statute provides otherwise. Consequently, the Court held that the Town of Kimball hindered and harassed Richardson in his attempt to exert his right to examine court records.
These actions, the Court reasoned, evidenced a deliberate disregard for mandatory statutory provisions. The Court held that Richardson was entitled to costs and reasonable attorney fees "because this action was necessitated by public officials willfully refusing to obey the law." Id., 176 W. Va. at 26, 340 S.E.2d at 584.