One Pennsylvania trial court, without analysis, has applied the First Amendment privilege to an internet website that published an anonymous posting of political commentary. Melvin v. Doe, 49 Pa. D. & C.4th 449, 477 (CP Allegheny 2000). There is no other Pennsylvania case law that addresses the extent to which the Shield Law or the First Amendment reporter's privilege protects non-traditional news gatherers such as authors, freelancers, students, unpaid news gatherers, or academic researchers. Nor are there any cases addressing whether these privileges apply to bloggers.
Any agency may hold an executive session “to consult with its attorney or other professional advisor regarding information or strategy in connection with litigation or with issues on which identifiable complaints are expected to be filed.” 65 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 708(a)(4). The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has adopted regulations mandating that all decisions to settle a potential lawsuit be made in open meetings. Regulation Regarding Resolution of Informal Investigations, 1989 Pa. PUC LEXIS 28 (March 30, 1989).
Such entities are generally not agencies subject to the Sunshine Act. In FOP Lodge No. 5. v. City of Philadelphia, 500 A.2d 900 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1985), app. dismissed, 518 A.2d 263 (Pa. 1986), the court held that the MOVE Commission, a temporary, advisory body, appointed by the mayor, with a limited purpose, was not an “agency” under the predecessor to the Sunshine Act.
The Act mandates the creation of an Office of Open Records in the Department of Community and Economic Development. Section 1310(a). The Office is led by an Executive Director who is appointed by the Governor for a term of six years (with a maximum of two terms) and who may appoint attorneys to act as appeals officers as well as other staff as appropriate. Section 1310(b).
The Office of Open Records has the following responsibilities:
1. Provide information relating to the implementation and enforcement of the Act.
Although this largely depends on the applicable local court rules, the motion should briefly give the background of the motion, state the argument and relief requested, and include a proposed order and memorandum of law. Because trial court judges are usually unfamiliar with these privileges, it is important to educate the court as to their nature, scope and underlying public policies.
There is no provision in the statute for expedited consideration of a Sunshine Act suit. Such considerations can be obtained by request, or by seeking a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.