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Melamed v. Philadelphia Police Department

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  1. Freedom of Information

Case Number: 201201744

Court: Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas

Clients: Samantha Melamed, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Notice of Appeal Filed: Dec. 29, 2020

Background: In July 2020, Samantha Melamed, a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, submitted a public records request under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law seeking records reflecting Philadelphia Police Department employees dismissed in 2020.

The Inquirer has been covering cases of officer misconduct and the police arbitration system. In February 2020, Melamed reported a story about six Philadelphia police officers who were fired in connection with domestic violence incidents.

After the police department failed to issue a timely response to the request, the reporter and the Inquirer filed an appeal with the state’s Office of Open Records, the agency responsible for handling public records appeals.

The OOR granted the appeal in part and denied it in part. While the OOR held that the police department is not required to disclose records of terminated employees still involved in the grievance process, it ruled that the police department is required to disclose the records of employees whose termination became final within the timeframe of Melamed’s records request.

On behalf of Melamed and the Inquirer, Reporters Committee attorneys appealed the OOR’s decision to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Reporters Committee attorneys argue that all of the requested documents should be released because they are public records under the plain language of the Right to Know Law.

Update: On July 23, 2021, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas denied the appeal and affirmed the decision of the Office of Open Records. On Aug. 13, 2021, Melamed and the Inquirer appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. 


2020-12-29: Notice of appeal

2021-05-03: Appellants’ brief

2021-05-03: ACLU-PA amicus brief supporting appellants, reversal, and disclosure of records

2021-06-28: Brief of appellee in opposition to appeal from determination of Office of Open Records

2021-07-23: Court order

2021-08-13: Notice of appeal

2022-02-14: Petitioners’ brief

2022-03-16: Brief for appellee Philadelphia Police Department

2022-03-30: Petitioners’ reply brief