Due Process and Right-to-Know Requests

Posted by on Mar 13, 2015 in Municipal Law | 0 comments

Due Process and Right-to-Know Requests

The recent Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court decision in Pennsylvania State Educ. Ass’n v. Commonwealth, 2015 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 72 (Feb. 17, 2015) significantly impacts the process through which government agencies respond to Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”) requests seeking personal information.  The Court found the RTKL violated due process principles by not affording individuals whose personal information was requested an opportunity to challenge the agency’s decision. 

The Court recognized an individual, regardless of their status as a public official or employee, has a constitutional right to privacy of personal identification information.  Such right does not extend to the individual’s home address as such information can be obtained from public records. Despite this exception, the Court stated an agency is “prohibited from granting access to an individual’s personal address information without first notifying the affected individual and providing that affected individual with an opportunity to demonstrate that disclosure” should be denied pursuant to the personal security exception of the RTKL.

Pursuant to this decision, government agencies subject to the RTKL must amend their Right-to-Know procedures.  In the event a RTKL request seeks or otherwise would result in the release of any personal identification information if granted, the agency cannot release such information until it, (1) notifies the affected individual, and (2) gives the affected individual an opportunity to show that the release of such information would pose a personal security threat to the affected individual.  After such notice and opportunity, the agency shall make a determination of whether disclosure of the information in fact creates a personal security threat, and if so, may deny the request or portion of the request. 

If you have any questions regarding this update, or any other municipal law matters, please contact John Miller jmiller@mpl-law.com, or, Andrew Miller amiller@mpl-law.com, or Christian Miller, , by email or phone at (717) 845-1524.