We're excited to release the 2nd episode of the Standard of Review.
Corrie connected with Charlie Kelly and Mike Joyce of Saul Ewing's Pittsburgh office and discussed their years-long travails to vindicate a Uniontown Newspaper journalist's right to receive all responsive records pursuant to a Right to Know Law request. The request, sent on September 25, 2014, sought documentation of illnesses contracted by inmates and/or staff members at SCI-Fayette. The journalist was not seeking identifying information, only the types of reported contracted illnesses and the number of inmates and staff members with those illnesses. The Department of Corrections' Office of Open Records simply forwarded the request, without any additional effort to marshal department resources to supply this public information that the journalist had a right to by law.
Apparently, the agency stymied the efforts to supply additional information relating to inmate cancer and mortality data at SCI-Fayette because The Abolitionist Law Center had just published No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at State Correctional Institution Fayette, a year-long, devastating investigative report on the toxic, cancer-causing exposure to all persons housed, employed, and visiting the correctional facility, located in Labelle, PA. The newspaper did not receive responsive documents to their request until years later, after prolonged, sophisticated litigation. By the time the Court ordered production of the responsive records, some of the records had already been lost or destroyed.
Thankfully the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that the right of Pennsylvania citizens to scrutinize their government, particularly on a public health issue impacting a captive population, is guaranteed under the Right to Know Law, as well as the means to vindicate that right through an award of attorney's fees.
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