National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Pennsylvania Supreme Court supports Right-to-Know law

Freedom of information advocates celebrated Tuesday’s decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The “decision is massively good news for requesters using Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law,” Erik Arneson, the executive director of Open Records Pennsylvania, tweeted. 

Arneson also offered background on the case: Corrections. It began with a 2014 request for records related to illnesses contracted by inmates and staff members at the state prison in Fayette.

In March 2018, Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court ruled that “some of [the Department of Corrections’] noncompliance [with an OOR order] constitutes bad faith that merits statutory sanctions.” In Oct. 2018, Judge Simpson ordered DOC to pay $118,458.37 in legal fees.

“Today’s decision not only upholds that sanction, it also includes strong language about the duty of the agency, and the Agency Open Records Officer, to conduct a good faith search for records at the request stage,” Arneson also tweeted.

“… we conclude it is reasonable to impose on the open records officer a duty to act with diligence when ‘direct[ing] requests to other appropriate persons within the agency.'”