Department of State Determines Pennsylvania Constitution is Not a Public Record

The Patriot News has reported that the Department of State (“Department”) has denied an inmate’s request to see a copy of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  On Sunday, September 18, 2011, Jan Murphy wrote that the Office of Open Records granted the inmate’s appeal and ordered the Department to give him a copy of the constitution.  A copy of Murphy’s article is available on Pennlive’s website.

A copy of the final determination issued by Office of Open Records is also available online.

According to the final determination, the inmate requested one copy of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1968.  The Department argued that the constitution is not a public record as defined by the Right-to-Know law because it is not “information … that documents a transaction or activity” of the Department.  The Office of Open Records found this to be an absurd interpretation of the Right-to-Know Law because the General Assembly would never have intended to exclude the Pennsylvania Constitution from public access.

Even more disturbing than the department’s initial denial is the department’s continued insistence that the state constitution is not a public record.  Murphy reported that the department stands by its initial ruling and that future requests for the constitution will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Disclaimer:  This blog is maintained by the members of Nauman Smith’s Media and Right-to-Know Law practice group.  The members of this practice group represent both: 1) media entities, individuals and corporations seeking access to public records, and 2) local municipalities seeking to comply with the law.  THIS BLOG IS NOT MEANT TO BE USED AS LEGAL ADVICE.  The purpose of this blog is to provide educational material for individuals interested in Pennsylvania’s open records law, commonly referred to as the “Right-to-Know Law” or “RTKL”.  The opinions expressed by the individual members of the practice group are solely their own, and do not reflect the opinions of Nauman, Smith, Shissler & Hall, LLP, or the practice group as a whole.

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