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Pennsylvania Supreme Gives State Judges Power To Rule Over Public Records

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(The state capitol in Harrisburg.  File photo)

(The state capitol in Harrisburg. File photo)

(Capitol dome, Harrisburg, Pa.   File photo) Tony Romeo
  Tony Romeo is Harrisburg bureau chief for KYW Newsradio...
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By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) - Pennsylvania’s highest court is leaving it up to judges to resolve disputes over access to public records under the state’s Right to Know Law.

Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law was overhauled five years ago and the Office of Open Records was created. The state Supreme Court has now ruled in the case of a Pittsburgh newspaper’s request for information about the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and how Commonwealth Court handled an appeal of a decision by the Office of Open Records.

The Supreme Court has decided that the lower court was correct in concluding that it had broad powers of review. But Chief Justice Ronald Castille disagrees with the majority.

While commending the Supreme Court for seeking to reconcile the inconsistencies that he says are “abounding” in the updated Right to Know Law, Castille – in a dissenting opinion – says the ruling will add delay and expense to the process of accessing public records.

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