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County of Bucks v. Sholtis

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  1. Freedom of Information

Case Number: 2020-05950

Court: Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Clients: Brett Sholtis

Petition for Review Filed: Nov. 24, 2020

Background: In July 2020, Brett Sholtis, a reporter for WITF in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, submitted a public records request under the state’s Right to Know Law seeking video recordings from inside a Bucks County jail allegedly showing a confrontation between an inmate and corrections officers.

The county denied the request, arguing that the responsive videos were exempt from disclosure. In August, Sholtis appealed to Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records, the agency responsible for handling public records appeals.

The OOR granted the reporter’s appeal in October, requiring the county to provide the responsive records within 30 days. The next month, the county filed a lawsuit against Sholtis in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas. The county argued that the requested videos are not public records and asked the court to reverse the OOR’s October decision.

Reporters Committee attorneys began representing Sholtis in November.

Co-Counsel: Jim Davy of All Rise Trial & Appellate

Update: On April 4, 2022, the Court of Common Pleas reversed the final determination of the Office of Open Records. On May 3, 2022, Reporters Committee attorneys appealed to the Commonwealth Court. On Oct. 19, 2023, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that the video was exempt from public disclosure.


2020-11-24: Bucks County petition for review

2020-12-02: Entry of appearance

2020-12-21: Sholtis’s response to petition for review

2021-08-17: Brief in support of the county’s petition for review

2021-09-07: Respondent’s brief

2021-10-22: Rescheduling order

2022-01-13: County of Bucks closing brief

2022-01-27: Sholtis’s reply brief

2022-04-04: Court of Common Pleas decision

2022-11-16: Sholtis’s principal brief

2022-11-18: Amicus brief filed by the Abolitionist Law Center and the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project in support of Sholtis

2022-12-16: County’s reply brief

2023-10-19: Commonwealth Court opinion

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