Case Number: AP 2020-1606
Court: The Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania
Clients: Liz Evans Scolforo and The York Dispatch
Petition for Review Filed: Oct. 30, 2020
Background: Liz Evans Scolforo, a reporter for the York Dispatch, submitted public records requests to the York County Court of Common Pleas and York County seeking copies of salary records for all of the county’s prothonotary employees. Both the court and the county denied the requests.
The court claimed that it “has absolutely no authority over, responsibility for, nor access to any personnel record of any employee in the prothonotary’s office.” The county, meanwhile, claimed the records were judicial records not under its purview.
Evans Scolforo appealed to the Office of Open Records, but the office dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.
On behalf of Evans Scolforo and The York Dispatch, attorneys for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Dilworth Paxson LLP filed a petition for review with the Court of Common Pleas of York County, arguing that the Office of Open Records erred in dismissing the appeal. They argue that because the county pays the salaries of prothonotary office employees, the county possesses the requested records and must release them under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law.
Quote: “These employees are paid with county funds, supervised by county row officers and, as such, the employees’ basic salary and employment records are public under the RTKL. A holding to the contrary would create a gaping hole in the RTKL for elected county officials and their staff.
Update: On Jan. 22, 2021, the Court of Common Pleas of York County denied the petition, concluding “that the records in question are judicial records and the County has no jurisdictional authority to release them without direction to do so by the judiciary.” The court also directed York County to refer the request to the county’s judicial records manager to determine whether the records should be released. Scolforo and The York Dispatch then appealed the order to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on Feb. 23.
2020-10-30: Petition for review
2021-01-22: Common Pleas Court order
2021-02-23: Scolforo notice of appeal
2021-02-23: Notice of appeal exhibits
2021-04-14: Application for consolidation
2021-07-19: Appellants’ brief