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.

Driver’s licenses, ID cards protected by Vehicle Code

The Commonwealth Court determined that the information contained in state-issued driver’s licenses and photo identification cards is protected from public inspection under Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code and therefore exempt from disclosure under the Right to Know Law.

Prothonotary judicial, not subject to OOR

The Commonwealth Court held that the Office of Open Records does not have jurisdiction to hear an appeal from the denial of a Right to Know Law request by a prothonotary because prothonotaries are considered judicial agencies and are subject to a separate appeals process under the Law.

Court upholds OOR denial of DPW license inspection summaries

The Commonwealth Court affirmed the final determination of the Office of Open Records and denied the disclosure of License Inspection Summaries of the Department of Public Welfare. The court ruled that a requester cannot request a different document from the one originally requested during the appeal process.

Cause/manner of death records immediately accessible

The Supreme Court held that the requirement that coroners release cause and manner of death records under the Right to Know Law does not conflict with the Coroner’s Act. Consequently, coroners are required to release copies of cause and manner of death records within the time established by the RTKL and are permitted to charge the fees assessed under the Coroner’s Act.

DEP database records ordered disclosed

The Commonwealth Court affirmed an order of the Office of Open Records compelling the Department of Environmental Protection to disclose information from one of its databases.
In affirming the order, the Court held that (1) retrieving information from a database is not the same as creating a new record; and (2) disclosing information about third parties in the database did not implicate the Right to Know Law’s personal security exemption because the department specifically told people that the information submitted to it would be public.

PSP informant policy exempt as public safety matter

The Commonwealth Court affirmed the denial of a request for police policies concerning the use of confidential informants under the Right to Know Law’s public safety exception. The court determined that disclosure of the records could hinder criminal apprehension efforts, jeopardize the personal safety of many individuals, and deter potential informants from coming forward.