Yesterday, the Commonwealth Court issued a decision indicating that it would suspend its decision from February 17, 2015 requiring the notification of school employees upon receipt of a Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”) request for their home addresses and allowing employees to intervene. Previously the Court had issued an injunction, which prevented any school district from releasing the home addresses of school employees.
What this means for you: For now, any request for home addresses should be denied as the injunction has essentially been reinstated. In cases where necessary, grant a request for employee names and deny the request for home addresses. This advice remains the same as our advice last week because the Commonwealth Court is, in a sense, applying a longer-term effect to its expedited decision from February 26, 2015.
Below is a condensed timeline of this legal process:
July 28, 2009: The Commonwealth Court issued an injunction prohibiting the release of, and requiring redactions of, any records with school employees’ home addresses.
March 25, 2014: The Commonwealth Court denied the opposing party’s (Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees/Office of Open Records) application to modify the July 28, 2009 injunction.
February 17, 2015: The Commonwealth Court granted and denied in part the cross-motions for summary judgment. This resulted in an order requiring school districts to notify employees of requests for their home addresses and allow these employees time to respond with any exception for personal safety and the ability to appeal / respond to a requester’s appeal as necessary. The order also required the Office of Open Records to change its processes to allow employees to appeal or defend themselves in a requester’s appeal. PSEA then filed an Application for expedited consideration of their Application for Supercedeas, to preserve the status quo.
February 20, 2015: PSEA filed an “Application for Supercedeas and Restoration of Injunction Pending Appeal” in Commonwealth Court, seeking two types of relief:
ONE: Until the PSEA appeal is decided in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, a stay on the February 17, 2015 order and restoration of the March 25, 2014 injunction; OR
TWO: Until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decides on PSEA’s Application for Supercedeas (which PSEA intends to file), a temporary stay of the February 17, 2015 order and restoration of the March 25, 2014 injunction.
February 26, 2015: The Commonwealth Court granted PSEA’s Application for expedited consideration of their Application for Supercedeas, to preserve the status quo.
March 17, 2015: PSEA’s “Application for Supersedeas (with the Commonwealth Court) and Restoration of Injunction pending Appeal” was denied. (Option ONE above);
PSEA’s “Application for Temporary Supersedeas until the Supreme Court rules on an Application for Supersedeas and restoration of Injunction Pending Appeal” was granted. (Option TWO above).
While the Courts are busy responding to motions filed by the parties in this case, the bottom line for school districts remains the same as it has been for the past year: deny those RTKL requests that include a school employee’s home address. Partially grant any of those requests that contain material otherwise allowed to be disclosed under the RTKL; redact any portions containing a home address. We hope this helps you navigate a rather complicated legal web of motions. Please feel free to contact the School Law Group with any additional concerns or questions you may have.