Rare ruling makes public access to records easier

A Pennsylvania court ruled recently that the Office of Open Records has the authority to order a private review of records to decide disputes about access to government documents and information.

What’s that mean?

It means that a Commonwealth Court panel has given the Office of Open Records access to legal bills from Center Township in Butler County so that it can determine whether it would violate attorney-client privilege to make them public.

In the grand scheme of things, the ruling means the Office of Open Records can grant access to records without a court giving permission ahead of time.

As it stands now, regular people are far too often having to go to court to get access to government records.

That was not the intent of the update of Pennsylvania’s outdated open records law several years ago.

Since then, access to public records has progressively been getting more difficult.

This latest ruling is a rare one in favor of public records access.

Get ready for an appeal from Center Township.

But we hope, appeal or not, that public officials start to remember that the open records law was revised years ago to make public access to government easier, not harder.