Corrupt Courts Refuse Transparency

The Scranton Times reports that the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR) is appealing a court ruling extending an exemption to open records to the judiciary branch. (HT FYI by PLS)

The Commonwealth Court this week ruled records of ancillary offices to the state’s court system are not subject to the 2008 Right to Know Law. The Times-Tribune sought Lackawanna County records for its Department of Domestic Relations. The media sought “inappropriate e-mails” sent and received by Pat Luongo, Director of Domestic Relations, for which he had been suspended without pay.

OOR Director Terry Mutchler responded:

“It is a brand-new law and everybody is in a stage of weighing in. This court weighed in with a very strong opinion related to this and we’re welcome for any guidance,” she said. “The Office of Open Records still feels that our final determination was correct.”

While some court records are exempted by laws governing privacy and security, it is up to the agency receiving the request to prove the information in question falls under the 30 Right to Know exemptions.

The Commonwealth Court is effectively usurping the spirit of the Right to Know law. This is cause for concern, given the recent criminal activity within the court system in Luzerne County and allegations of corruption within the PA Supreme Court. It is more important than ever to establish transparency in the state judicial system.