Pennsylvania

C. What records are and are not subject to the act?

The Right to Know Act requires that commonwealth and local agencies provide access to “public records,” that legislative agencies provide access to “legislative records,” and that judicial agencies provide access to “financial records.” Sections 301-304. As a threshold matter, the requester bears the burden of proving that the agency possesses or controls the relevant records. See, e.g., Office of Gov. v. Bari, 2011 WL 1662849 at *5 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2011).

A. Generally

1. Shield Law

Unlike most other states' shield laws, the Pennsylvania Shield Law "creates an absolute privilege" that protects information "from disclosure without analysis of plaintiffs' need for the information." Davis v. Glanton, 705 A.2d 879, 883 (Pa. Super. 1997). The Shield Law "must be liberally construed in favor of the newspapers and news media." In re Taylor, 193 A.2d 181, 185 (Pa. 1963).

d. Requirement to meet in public before closing meeting. M1E3D

The Sunshine Act is ambiguous about whether agencies must meet publicly before closing a meeting and going into an executive session. See 65 Pa. Cons. Stat. §  708(b). Presumably, when an executive session is announced for a specific future time, no prior public meeting is required. However, although the purpose of an executive session may be announced after the session, §  708 may arguably be read to require some prior public announcement that an executive session will be held. No cases address this issue.

P. Public utility records.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is an agency subject to the Act.

There are several exemptions that may apply to public utility records.

b. Editor

The Pennsylvania Shield Law and First Amendment reporter's privilege apply to editors. In In re Taylor, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended the Shield Law's protections to the president and general manager of a newspaper and the editor of another newspaper, all of whom were subpoenaed by an investigating grand jury. See In re Taylor, 193 A.2d 181, 182, 186 (Pa. 1963). There are no Pennsylvania cases that actually define the term "editor" for the purposes of the privileges.

A. Adjudications by administrative bodies. M3A

The Act expressly allows these to be held in executive session, at least where they would otherwise result in disclosure of information privileged or otherwise protected by law. 65 Pa. Cons. Stat. §  708(a)(5). The Act is ambiguous about whether all adjudications may be held in executive session. Governmental units, including the Commonwealth, take the position that all adjudications may be closed. See, e.g., 4 Pa. Code § 1.50(d) (policy statement of Commonwealth Counsel regarding “privileged, confidential, investigatory and quasijudicial matters”).

B. Arrest records

Overview

Pennsylvania