Right-to-Know/Media Law

The Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) provides for access to public records of state and local agencies. Nauman Smith’s attorneys represent print and broadcast media, businesses, and citizens seeking access to public records, as well as public agencies seeking to comply with the law and its companion statute, the Sunshine Act. Our attorneys are recognized state-wide as authorities in both open records and meetings issues.

Our full range of services include:

  • Analysis of whether records are subject to public disclosure
  • Analysis of Right-To-Know Law exceptions
  • Assistance with or making requests for public records
  • Representation in appeals in the Office of Open Records, Court of Common Pleas, the Commonwealth Court, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
  • Mediation in the Office of Open Records
  • Drafting extension and response letters on behalf of public agencies
  • Review of records and preparation of exemption logs and privilege logs
  • Advice to local agencies on compliance

Significant cases include:

  • Cent. Dauphin Sch. Dist. v. Hawkins, 286 A.3d 726 (Pa. 2022)(school bus surveillance video is public record and, with limited redactions, not exempt under FERPA).
  • Mission Pennsylvania, LLC v. McKelvey, 255 A.3d 385 (Pa. 2021) (applications for permits to grow, process, and distribute medical marijuana are public records subject to minimal redaction)
  • Miller v. County of Centre, 173 A.3d 1162 (Pa. 2017) (District Attorney is not a judicial agency under RTKL).
  • Reese v. Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, 173 A.3d 1143 (Pa. 2017) (RTKL exemptions do not apply to records made public by other laws).
  • Pennsylvania Pub. Util. Comm’n v. Andrew Seder/The Times Leader, 139 A.3d 165 (Pa. 2016) (PUC required to disclose documents related to settlement agreement with PPL Electric Utilities Corporation).
  • Bagwell v. Pennsylvania Dep’t of Educ., 76 A.3d 81 (Pa. Commw. 2013) (Department of Education emails related to Jerry Sandusky scandal are public records).
  • Pennsylvania State Univ. v. State Employees’ Ret. Bd., 935 A.2d 530 (Pa. 2007) (names and salaries of Penn State employees who participate in state pension plan, including head football coach Joe Paterno, are public records).
  • Parsons v. Pennsylvania Higher Educ. Assistance Agency, 910 A.2d 177 (Pa. Commw. 2006) (PHEAA Board retreat expenditures are public records).

Media Law

Nauman Smith’s attorneys provide prompt, knowledgeable advice to print and broadcast media clients. Craig J. Staudenmaier is the past Co-chair of Bar/Press Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, an affiliate member of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, and General Counsel for the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition. Our attorneys represent journalists, broadcasters, and publishers in all phases of media law including:

  • Right-to-Know access
  • Sunshine Act violations
  • Defamation defense
  • Defense of subpoenas to reporters and publishers
  • First Amendment issues
  • Prepublication review

Significant cases include:

  • Pennsylvania State University v. Pennsylvania Manufacturers Assn. Insurance (Philadelphia C.C.P. 2016) (obtained ruling on behalf coalition of newspapers to unseal records involving Penn State’s litigation with its insurers arising out of the Sandusky proceedings).
  • York Newspapers Inc. v. The City of York, 826 A.2d 41 (Pa.Commw. 2003) (obtaining access to police files and court cases of civil disturbances and unsolved homicides).
  • Patriot-News Co. v. Empowerment Team of Harrisburg Sch. Dist. Members, 763 A.2d 539 (Pa. Commw. 2000) (school district empowerment teams are agencies under Sunshine Act).
  • Ertel v. Patriot-News Co., 674 A.2d 1038 (Pa. 1996) (affirming summary judgment for defamation defendant).
  • Marsico v. Patriot-News Co., 32 Pa. D&C 4th 153 (Dauphin County C.C.P. 1996) (defense verdict for media defendant and its reporter in defamation action).