Right to Know Law

General
Pennsylvania’s Right To Know Law, Act 3 of 2008, effective January 1, 2009, establishes certain requirements and prohibitions governing information that commonwealth agencies shall provide to the public upon request.  Chapter 3, Section 304 (a), of Act 3 requires that “a judicial agency shall provide financial records in accordance with this act."

Pursuant to it’s authority under Article V, Section 10 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the provisions set forth in Section 304 of Act 3 of 2008, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued Pa. Rule of Judicial Administration No. 509 on June 23, 2008, requiring that any requests for records from judicial agencies must be in accordance with Pa. RJA No. 509. Judicial agencies, which include the Court of Common Pleas, court-appointed departments and court-appointed personnel, are required to provide financial records information to the public only under Pa. RJA No. 509.

Policy 
This policy establishes the policies and procedures for the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas and all of its court-appointed departments and personnel under the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s Rule of Judicial Administration No. 509 (Pa. RJA No. 509). This policy applies to all requests from the public relating to the courts, court-appointed departments, and court-appointed personnel. This policy establishes the framework which the court will utilize in its’ administrative discretion under Pa. RJA No. 509.

The court recognizes the importance of complying with Pa. RJA No. 509 and acknowledges that local policy and procedure may change based on new legislation and/or Pennsylvania Supreme Court rulings.

Open Records Officer
Pa. RJA No. 509, Section (c), establishes that “a request to inspect or obtain copies of records accessible pursuant to this rule and in possession or control of a court of a judicial district shall be made in writing to the records manager, as designated by the president judge.”

In cooperation with the county, the president judge has designated all requests for public records are coordinated with the county open records officer.  Requests shall be directed to either the court rule 509 open records officer or the county open records officer at:
Requests for Public Records
Requests for information relating to a judicial agency must be received by the court rule 509 open records officer or the county’s open records officer. Per Pa. RJA No. 509 Section (c), “a written request may be submitted in person, by mail, by e-mail, by facsimile, or, to the extent provided, any other electronic means…” The court has provided the attached form. If the form is sent directly to or is received by a judicial agency, the court rule 509 open records officer shall review it and will send it to the county open records officer for review. A determination will be made as to which officer will process the request.
 
If it is determined that the court rule 509 open records officer will processes the request, within 10 business days of receipt of the written request the officer will respond (Pa. RJA No. 509, Section (c)(4)).

Neither the court or the county shall be required to create financial records which do not currently exist or to compile, maintain, format or organize such records in a manner in which the records are not currently compiled, maintained, formatted or organized (Pa. RJA No. 509, Section (c)(3)).

Information on contracts where the Court of Common Pleas is the signatory and is valued at $5,000.00 or more (Pa. RJA No. 509, Section (c)(3)) is made available to the public on the Unified Judicial System’s website.  However, in Lancaster all contracts are signed by the Board of Commissioners and therefore, this part of the rule does not apply. Requests involving any other financial records of this court shall be made in writing on the attached form.

Appeal of a Denial of a Request for Information of a Judicial Agency
Per Pa. RJA No. 509, if the court rule 509 open records officer denies a written request for information, the denial may be appealed in writing within 15 business days of the mailing date of the written response by the open records officer to the president judge or his/her designee.  Within 20 business days of the receipt of the appeal, the president judge or his/her designee shall make a determination and forward it in writing to the requester and to the open records officer. Appeals shall be sent in writing to:
Office of Court Administration
50 N. Duke St.
P.O. Box 83480
Lancaster, PA 17608-3480

Any further appeal from the president judge or his/her designee, shall be subject to Chapter 15, Judicial Review of Governmental Determinations, of the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure.