The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 19, 2013

Ruling: No Pa. privacy right for home address

Associated Press

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that the state constitution does not give people a right to privacy when it comes to their home addresses, clarifying a matter that has emerged as a major point of dispute under the Right-to-Know law.

The justices gave their approval to a January 2012 Commonwealth Court decision throwing out a lawsuit by Mel M. Marin, a prospective congressional candidate who would not provide his residence information on campaign documents.

The Supreme Court did not issue its own written analysis, but the lower-court opinion stated “there is no constitutional right to privacy in one’s home address under the Pennsylvania Constitution.”

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.”

In making its ruling, Commonwealth Court had quoted a 2003 Supreme Court decision that said it had become increasingly common for name and address information to be disseminated.

“This information often appears in government records, telephone directories and numerous other documents that are readily accessible to the public ... an individual cannot reasonably expect that his identity and home addresses will remain secret,” the Supreme Court ruled a decade ago.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.