Pennsylvania

E. Appellate proceedings

Overview

Pennsylvania

B. Elements

Since the Pennsylvania Shield Law provides an absolute privilege against compelled disclosure of confidential source information, the predominant issues generally are whether the subpoenaed information is confidential source information and whether the Shield Law's protections have been waived by publication of the identity of the confidential source.

Under the First Amendment privilege, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated the elements as follows (without actually ruling that there is such a privilege in Pennsylvania):

f. Tape recording requirements. M1E3F

There is no requirement that executive sessions be tape recorded.

2. Does the law cover oral requests?

Agencies may, but are not required to, fulfill “verbal” (presumably meaning “oral”) and anonymous requests. Section 702. If the requester wants to pursue “the relief and remedies” provided by the Act, e.g., receive the required form of agency response and take an appeal from any denial of access, “the request for access to records must be a written request.” Id. While agencies may have the statutory discretion to accept oral requests, it appears that Commonwealth agencies under the control of the governor have been instructed to refuse oral requests.

4. Personally identifying information.

See discussion of the implications of deleting the phrase “reputation” from the “personal security” exemption. 

b. Bodies whose members include governmental officials.

The presence of 12 state-appointed trustees on a 36-member university board did not transform an essentially private university into a state “agency” under the old act. Mooney v. Board of Trustees of Temple Univ., 292 A.2d 395, 399 (Pa. 1972) (interpreting the old act). Temple, however, is a state-related institution that is now subject to certain access requirements under the Act.

b. Disclosure of non-confidential source's name

The Pennsylvania Shield Law does not protect non-confidential source information.

There is no Pennsylvania case law directly addressing waiver of the First Amendment reporter's privilege by disclosure of a non-confidential source's name.