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2005-UP-536 - The Sun Publishing v. Waccamaw Regional Transportation Authority

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

The Sun Publishing Company, Inc.,        Appellant,

v.

Waccamaw Regional Transportation Authority, Inc. and 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor,        Respondents.


Appeal From Horry County
Paula H. Thomas, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2005-UP-536
Submitted September 1, 2005 – Filed October 3, 2005


REMANDED


Robert A. Muckenfuss, of Charlotte, for Appellant.

Emma Ruth Brittain, of Myrtle Beach, John L. Weaver, Office of the Horry County Attorney, of Conway, Mark Andrew Brunty, of Myrtle Beach, for Respondents.

PER CURIAM: Sun Publishing appeals the denial of its request for attorney fees as the prevailing party in an action brought pursuant to the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).[1]  Sun Publishing maintains the circuit court abused its discretion by failing to enter any findings of fact regarding the denial of its fee request.  We agree.

If a person or entity seeking relief prevails in an action brought pursuant to the FOIA, reasonable attorney fees and other costs of litigation may be awarded.[2]  The circuit court’s order denying attorney fees in this case states the request was denied “[b]ased upon the facts of this case.”  The circuit court included no explanation of what those facts were, notwithstanding Sun Publishing in its application for attorney fees cited Burton v. York County Sheriff’s Department[3] and quoted the portion of Burton that referenced a trial court’s duty to “make specific findings of fact on the record” when determining an award of attorney fees.[4]  A failure to enter findings regarding the denial of a request for attorney fees under the FOIA is an abuse of discretion and warrants remand for proper consideration.[5]  We therefore remand this matter to the circuit court pursuant to Burton for it to make specific findings of fact on the record regarding Sun Publishing’s right to attorney fees. 

REMANDED. [6]

GOOLSBY, BEATTY, and SHORT, JJ., concur.


[1] S.C. Code Ann. §§ 30-4-10 to -165 (1991 & Supp. 2004).

[2] S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-100(b) (1991); Campbell v. Marion County Hosp. Dist., 354 S.C. 274, 288-89, 580 S.E.2d 163, 170 (Ct. App. 2003) (holding the circuit court has discretion to award attorney fees where a party prevails in a claim for information under the FOIA).

[3] 358 S.C. 339, 594 S.E.2d 888 (Ct. App. 2004).

[4] Id. at 358, 594 S.E.2d at 898.

[5] Id. at 357, 594 S.E.2d at 898 (holding the trial court’s failure to enter findings regarding the denial of a request for attorney fees under the FOIA was an abuse of discretion and warranted remand for proper consideration).

[6]  We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.