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WILLIAM H. MITMAN v. COUNTY COMMISSIONERS CHESTER COUNTY (12/16/80)

decided: December 16, 1980.

WILLIAM H. MITMAN, JR., ESQUIRE, APPELLANT
v.
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF CHESTER COUNTY, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County in the case of William H. Mitman, Jr., Esquire v. County Commissioners of Chester County et al., No. 202-P Misc. Docket, 1979.

COUNSEL

William H. Mitman, Jr., appellant, for himself.

John S. Halsted, with him Paula F. Francisco, for appellee.

President Judge Crumlish and Judges Mencer, Rogers, MacPhail and Palladino. Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Blatt, Craig and Williams, Jr. did not participate. Opinion by Judge Palladino. Concurring Opinion by Judge Rogers. President Judge Crumlish joins in concurring opinion.

Author: Palladino

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 360]

The District Attorney office of Chester County stores in the County Data Processing Center a series of computer tapes known as the "history file". The history file contains information on every closed criminal case in the county dating back to 1972 and includes the name of the accused, the date of the complaint, bail information, chronological information as to the events that took place during the life of the case, the entry of appearance of public defenders and defense counsel, the assignment of the assistant district attorney and/or the "trial team" handling the prosecution, and the final disposition of the case. In May 1979*fn1 appellant requested from the district attorney a history file printout of all the information with respect to all the cases assigned to a particular assistant district attorney. The district attorney refused the request. Pursuant to Section 4 of the Act of June 21, 1957 (Right-To-Know Act), P.L. 390, as amended, 65 P.S. § 66.4, an appeal was taken to the court of common pleas. Holding that the information requested is not a "public record" as defined in Section 1(2) of the Right-To-Know Act, 65 P.S. § 66.1(2), the lower court denied the appeal.

The focus of the parties is obviously on the assignment of assistant district attorneys to particular cases. The question before the Court is whether the county history file, especially information relating to the assignment of assistant district attorneys to specific

[ 55 Pa. Commw. Page 361]

    cases, is a public record under the Right-To-Know Act and thus subject to public inspection.

Section 1(2) of the Right-To-Know Act defines public record as in pertinent part:

Any account, voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or disbursement of funds by an agency or its acquisition, use or disposal of services or of supplies, materials, equipment or other property and any minute, order or decision by an agency fixing the personal or property rights, privileges, immunities, duties or obligations of any person or group of persons. . . .

65 P.S. § 66.1(2).

Emphasizing that a "broad construction adheres . . . to an initial determination that a document is a 'public record'", Marvel v. Dalrymple, 38 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 67, 72, 393 A.2d 494, 497 (1978), appellant argues that the information sought is evidence of a "decision" reached by an "agency", the District Attorney office, ...


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