The RTKL & the SCOTUS Food Marketing Institute Decision

Office of Open Records LogoOn June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, which dealt with trade secrets and other commercial information that may be confidential under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The Supreme Court held that, “Where commercial or financial information is both customarily and actually treated as private by its owner and provided to the government under an assurance of privacy,” the information is confidential under FOIA.

On Friday, Oct. 4, the Office of Open Records issued a final determination in a case dealing (mostly) with medical marijuana permit applications. The agency in that case argued that the Food Marketing Institute decision should apply to Section 708(b)(11) of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law, which is designed to protect trade secrets and confidential proprietary information.

The OOR held that the RTKL’s treatment of trade secrets and confidential proprietary information (including its definition of “confidential proprietary information”) is significantly different than FOIA’s treatment of such information.

The OOR concluded that because of the different language in the two laws, the SCOTUS decision in Food Marketing Institute “is of no consequence to the RTKL’s definition of confidential proprietary information” and, thus, does not apply to records sought under the RTKL.

The OOR’s analysis is on pages 24-25 of this decision.

Presentation for Media & Citizen Requesters

Later this morning at the Office of Open Records in Harrisburg, I’ll lead a training session about Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law. This session is designed especially for members of the media and members of the public interested in using the RTKL to request government records.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I’ll use:

Media & Requester Training – Oct. 10, 2019 (PPTX)
Media & Requester Training – Oct. 10, 2019 (PDF)

If you’re interested in training about the Right-to-Know Law and/or the Sunshine Act (for agencies or requesters), please let us know.

Coffee and the Capitol with PSATS

I recently spoke to Joe Gerdes, Director of Government Relations for the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, about the Right-to-Know Law and how townships across Pennsylvania can be better equipped to handle requests as efficiently as possible.

It was a great conversation, and I appreciate the invitation. Here’s the complete video from our “Coffee and the Capitol” discussion:

Speaking to Students at SSHE

Last night, I visited the State System of Higher Education’s Dixon Center in Harrisburg to speak to a group of students from across the state about Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.

I was invited to speak by Dr. Duane Milne. It was a great discussion, and I greatly appreciate the invitation.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used:

State System of Higher Education – Dr. Duane Milne – Oct. 8, 2019 (PPTX)
State System of Higher Education – Dr. Duane Milne – Oct. 8, 2019 (PDF)

If you’re a professor in Pennsylvania and you’d like me to speak to your class, let me know and I’ll do my best to make it happen.

Speaking to Students at Messiah College

Earlier this afternoon, I visited Messiah College in Grantham to speak to Dr. David Dixon’s journalism class about Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.

It was a great session, and I very much appreciate the invitation.

Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used:

Messiah College – Dr. David Dixon – Oct. 4, 2019 (PPTX)
Messiah College – Dr. David Dixon – Oct. 4, 2019 (PDF)

If you’re a professor in Pennsylvania and you’d like me to speak to your class, let me know and I’ll do my best to make it happen.

Oct. 10 – Requester Training in Harrisburg

Office of Open Records LogoThe Office of Open Records is hosting a training session for requesters (media and non-media) at our office in Harrisburg on Thursday, Oct. 10, starting at 11 a.m.

This event will focus on various areas of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law, including:

  • How to file a good RTKL request
  • Timelines and deadlines
  • Fees under the RTKL
  • Information in databases
  • How to appeal when your request is denied
  • Common reasons agencies deny requests

And much more.

This training session is free and open to everyone. To register, visit the OOR’s EvenbtBrite page.