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Constitutional Right of Privacy v. Right-to-Know Law Round One – Privacy Rights Win

The Pennsylvania State Education Association and employees recently sought a preliminary injunction against the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records to prevent the disclosure of their home addresses pursuant to the Right-to-Know Law. In a recent Order and Opinion, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has determined that public school employees’ privacy interest in their home addresses outweighs the Commonwealth’s interest in public disclosure of home addresses.(1) The Commonwealth Court conceded that the Right-to-Know Law does not specifically exempt the home addresses of public school employees from public disclosure. However, the Court held that held that the Pennsylvania Constitution may provide a person with a privacy interest in his or her home address and the benefit of public disclosure does not outweigh this privacy interest. The Court granted the preliminary injunction to stop the disclosure of the employees’ home addresses.

In an advisory issued by the PA Office of Open Records, Executive Director Terry Mutchler directed that there will be no Final Determinations issued by the Office of Open Records resulting in the mandated release of any public employees’ home addresses (not just limited to public school employees) pending final resolution of the above litigation. For updates on advisories issued by the Office of Open Records and other related information on the Right-to-Know Law, please go to its website at http://openrecords.state.pa.us.

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(1)Pennsylvania State Educ. Association ex rel. Wilson v. Com., Dept. of Community and Economic Development, Office of Open Records, 2009 WL 2602198 (Pa. Cmwlth.).

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