PA high court says no privacy right for home addresses

By   /   February 20, 2013  /   No Comments

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — A Supreme Court decision rules the state constitution does not provide a right to privacy for a home address.

The decision, announced Tuesday, stems from a lawsuit filed by Mel M. Marin, an Erie Democrat who would not provide his personal address while filing campaign documents as a prospective congressional candidate.

But the case has implications past such filings, as home addresses have been a point of contention in the state’s relatively new Office of Open Records, which handles the rules for public information requests.

The Commonwealth Court ruled on Marin’s case in January 2012, deciding the state constitution does not grant any right to privacy for one’s home address.

The Supreme Court did not issue its own opinion, but upheld the lower courts.

From Mark Scolforo of the Associated Press:

Terry Mutchler, director of the state Office of Open Records, said the decision has “profound implications” for other cases, as disputes over home addresses have arisen repeatedly under the Right-to-Know Law.

She said the question of whether to disclose home addresses, which are often protected under other states’ public information laws, has come up concerning teachers, firefighters, government employees and elected high officials.

Mutchler’s office was created under the version of the state open records law that took full effect in 2009 and is responsible for helping resolve disputes over access with state agencies and other governmental entities.

“I believe this will now clear up the outlying cases related to this,” Mutchler said. “It is now the law of the commonwealth.”

Commonwealth Court justices relied on existing case law to develop their original decision. They cited a 2003 Supreme Court case which said individuals cannot reasonably expect identities and addresses to remain secret when such information appears in public documents like phone books and government records.

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

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