Score one for the citizens' right to transparency from public bodies in Pennsylvania.
A state appellate court has ruled public-records requests filed under the state's Right to Know Law need not cite the law or satisfy other technicalities when making a request to see public records.
All they need to to do is include the requester's name and address and enough information for government agencies to identify the records being sought.
The ruling came in the form of a narrow 4-3 decision in which the majority of the court panel said the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board erred in ignoring an anti-gambling activist's 2009 request for records of communication between the agency and applicants competing for a resort casino license.
Beyond the verbiage, this is a significant ruling.
It means that those making a public records requests don't have to have any particular legal savvy, which cuts to the heart of the Right to Know Law. Citizens shouldn't need an advanced level of knowledge to "qualify" for public records information. A request is a request is a request.
Making citizens be more specific than necessary is a way for agencies to hide behind the heart of the matter - giving out information on public issues. That process is supposed to be simple and accessible to all citizens. It's not supposed to be a matter left only for citizens with a particular legal understanding.
The court panel's ruling simplifies the request process. They have ruled with pragmatism and common sense and on behalf of all Pennsylvania citizens. We thank them and hope the ruling improves the practical usage of the Right to Know Law.