Uniontown Newspapers, Inc. v. PA Dept. Corr.

In Uniontown Newspapers, Inc. v. PA Dept. Corr., the Pennsylvania Supreme Court addressed the propriety of the Commonwealth Court’s assessment of sanctions and attorney fees based on a finding of bad faith and willful and wanton behavior by an agency responder under the Right to Know Law (65 P.S. §§ 67.101-67.3104). After the PA DOC only partially complied with a newspaper reporter’s request for records, the newspaper filed a petition for enforcement. The Commonwealth Court granted the petition, finding the DOC acted in bad faith and, as a result, awarded attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DOC acted in bad faith at the records-request stage, in significant part because the open records officer failed to act with diligence in response to the request. The Court then affirmed  the conclusion of the Commonwealth Court that 65 P.S. § 67.1304(a)(1) “permit[s] recovery of attorney fees when the receiving agency determination is reversed, and it deprived a requester of access to records in bad faith.”

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