Right-to-Know Law Case Summaries

Below are archived summaries of state Commonwealth and Supreme Court rulings impacting the interpretation of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law. Links to the opinions are included, when available.

We’ve temporarily suspended summarizing these cases. Please check back later for new content.

Records of state official on PSU board are public

The Commonwealth Court held that records received by the secretary of education as a member of the Penn State University Board of Trustees are considered agency records because they are in the possession of the Department of Education and state law requires the secretary to sit on the board.

Contractor benefits plans not subject to RTKL

The Commonwealth Court held that benefits plans that a government contractor provided to its employees were not subject to disclosure under the Right to Know Law, as they did not relate to the government activity performed by the contractor and were not “created, received, or retained” by the government agency.

Attorney-client privilege doesn’t protect client IDs, description of services

In a case involving a Right to Know Law request for state Senate legal bills, the Supreme Court held that the attorney-client privilege generally does not protect client identities or descriptions of services in legal invoices.
The court also ruled that an agency’s failure to raise certain reasons for denying a RTKL request in its original denial letter does not always bar it from raising those reasons at the first level of appeal.

Governor’s address public record, but not employee cell phone numbers

The Commonwealth Court ruled that the Right to Know Law does not exempt from disclosure the governor’s home address or the middle names of employees of the Office of the Governor.
The court, however, determined that government-issued cell phone numbers of Office of the Governor employees need not be disclosed pursuant to the RTKL’s personal identification information exemption.

Home addresses not protected by Constitution or RTKL

The Commonwealth Court required the disclosure of the home addresses of the lieutenant governor and another employee of that office, stating that home addresses are protected by neither the Pennsylvania Constitution nor the personal security exemption of the Right to Know Law.
The Court also ruled that the Lieutenant Governor’s secondary, government-issued email addresses were protected from disclosure by the “personal identification information” exemption of the RTKL.

Governor’s office didn’t prove calendar items exempt from disclosure

The Commonwealth Court held that, although an entry on the governor’s calendar may be exempt from disclosure pursuant to the exemption for internal predecisional deliberations, the entries at issue must be disclosed because the affidavit submitted by the Governor’s Office in support of redacting the entries was insufficiently detailed to carry his burden of proof.

Prison transfer records protected by personal security exemption

The Commonwealth Court determined that, in the case of inmate transfer records, Department of Corrections employees’ identities were exempt under the Right to Know Law’s personal security exemption. The court also held that the department had not met its burden of establishing that records about the inmates and the logistics of the transfer were exempt under the public safety exemption, but permitted the Department to supplement the record to provide additional evidence within 60 days.