Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law gives county District Attorneys the responsibility of appointing an appeals officer to decide RTKL appeals “relating to access to criminal investigative records in possession of a local agency of that county.”
District Attorneys have been doing this since the RTKL went into effect at the start of 2009. Until now, there has been no effort to provide a central location where all of those decisions can be found.
Yesterday, the Office of Open Records sent letters to all 67 District Attorneys requesting that they forward to the OOR copies of any Final Determinations issued by their offices — including past and future Final Determinations — so that they can be posted to a new page on the OOR website.
We believe this new page will be a tremendous resource for agencies, requesters, and District Attorney appeals officers. The target date for making the page go live is Monday, Feb. 1.
Earlier today, I spoke to a group of District Attorneys at a conference organized by the Pennsylvania State Association of Elected County Officials.
The conversation focused on the Right-to-Know Law and the unique role played by District Attorneys in terms of hearing appeals filed which are related to law enforcement records held by local agencies such as police departments. (Section 503(d)(2) of the RTKL.) It was a great conversation, and I appreciate the invitation.
Here’s the PowerPoint presentation I used:
District Attorneys – July 15, 2019 – PDF
District Attorneys – July 15, 2019 – PPTX
On November 22, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that District Attorneys are not judicial agencies under the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL).
In the majority opinion in the case of Stacy Parks Miller v. Centre County, authored by Justice Wecht, the Supreme Court held that: “Examination of the RTKL, the definitional section of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa.C.S. § 102, and the definitions provided in our Rules of Judicial Administration, demonstrate that a district attorney’s office is not a ‘judicial agency’ for purposes of the RTKL.”
The majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Saylor and Justices Baer, Todd and Mundy. Justice Donohue authored a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Dougherty.
The distinction is significant because the RTKL applies in a very limited fashion to judicial agencies, which are required to provide only financial records. The law’s application to local agencies is much broader.