More than 40 years ago, Nauman Smith took its first case involving access to public records. Since then, the firm has represented the media, individuals, and businesses trying to obtain access to public documents and proceedings under the Pennsylvania Open Records and Sunshine Acts. Nauman Smith was on the forefront of this issue, handling landmark cases that would have significant impact on the drafting of the most recent version of Pennsylvania’s Right-t0-Know Law, which took effect in 2009.
In 2000, Nauman Smith successfully represented the Patriot News in a Sunshine Act review of the empowerment teams of both the Harrisburg and Steelton School Districts. In 2006 and 2007, the firm once again successfully represented the Patriot News in its efforts to gain access to Board spending information from Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and the salary information of Penn State employees, including Head Football Coach Joe Paterno, from the State Employee Retirement System.
Signed on February 14, 2008, the Right-To-Know Law fundamentally changed the way people access public records of their government. The hallmark of this new law, which took effect on January 1, 2009, is its presumption of openness. For the first time in Pennsylvania history, citizens no longer have to prove that a record is public and that it should be released. Now, a government agency must presume that a record in its possession is a public record and available for inspection or copying. If the government agency chooses to withhold a record in its possession, the agency has the burden to prove why that record should not be available to the public.