Case Number: 710 CD 2022
Court: Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
Clients: Carter Walker and LNP Media Group, Inc.
Entry of Appearance Filed: Aug. 12, 2022
Background: In January 2022, Carter Walker, a reporter for LNP Media Group, filed a request under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law seeking 24 years worth of hate crime data that the Pennsylvania State Police used to create the state’s Uniform Crime Reporting website.
The state police denied Walker’s request, arguing, in part, that producing the data would require the creation of a record which did not currently exist. The state police also claimed that it would cost roughly $6,000 to compile the requested records.
Walker appealed to the state’s Office of Open Records, which determined that extracting information from a database does not constitute the creation of a new record and that the state police cannot offload its labor costs onto public records requesters. The OOR then ordered the state police to release the records.
Rather than turn over the data, however, the state police petitioned the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania to review the OOR’s decision.
Paula Knudsen Burke, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney in Pennsylvania, is representing Walker and LNP Media Group in this matter. She is joined by Heather E. Murray, managing attorney for the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic’s Local Journalism Project.
Related: Attorneys from the Reporters Committee and the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic are currently representing freelance journalist Daniel Schwartz in his effort to obtain Pennsylvania State Police officers’ communications regarding protests over a natural gas pipeline project.
Updates: In March 2023, the Pennsylvania State Police filed an application to discontinue the case after it turned over all of the requested records, in full compliance with the OOR’s final determination.
2022-06-09: OOR final determination
2022-07-11: Agency petition for review
2022-08-12: Entry of appearance
2022-12-23: Brief of Pennsylvania State Police
2023-03-02: Brief of Walker and LNP Media Group
2023-04-19: Order for oral argument
2023-07-10: Order for oral argument
2023-10-10: Memorandum opinion (attorneys’ fees)