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Faulk v. Philadelphia Clerk of Courts

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

May 28, 2015

Aaron Faulk, Petitioner
v.
Philadelphia Clerk of Courts, Respondent

Submitted April 17, 2015

Page 1184

Appealed from No. AP 2014-1507. State Agency Office of Open Records.

Aaron Faulk, Pro se.

BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉ E COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge.

OPINION

Page 1185

ROBERT SIMPSON, JUDGE.

Aaron Faulk (Requester), an inmate housed at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield, petitions for review from the Office of Open Records' (OOR) final determination that dismissed his appeal under the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL)[1] for lack of jurisdiction. Requester sought copies of his sentencing orders from the Philadelphia Clerk of Courts (Clerk), which is a " judicial agency" under the RTKL. Section 102 of the RTKL, 65 P.S. § 67.102. Requester appealed to OOR when Clerk did not timely respond to his request. Requester argues Clerk is subject to the RTKL, and the records he seeks are public judicial records. He also asserts OOR denied him due process in failing to consider the merits of his appeal despite Clerk's status as a judicial agency. Specifically, he contends OOR should have transferred his appeal to the proper appeals officer, and he claims a liberty interest in the alleged non-existence of his sentencing order. Discerning no error below, we affirm.

I. Background

Requester submitted a RTKL request to Clerk dated August 28, 2014 for certified sentencing orders related to his criminal case. See Certified Record (C.R.), Item No. 1 (Request). According to Requester,[2] Clerk did not respond to his request within five business days as set forth in Section 901 of the RTKL, 65 P.S. § 67.901 (imposing five business day timeframe for response). Under the RTKL, an agency's failure to respond within this statutory timeframe constitutes a " deemed" denial. Id. Requester appealed the deemed denial to OOR.

Subsequent to filing his appeal, Requester received a copy of his Request returned to him with handwritten notations allegedly made by Clerk. C.R. at Item No. 1. On the first page, the docket numbers are handwritten at the top. On the second page, at the top of the page the notation states, " RTKL does not cover court records," and above the timeframe for response, it states " [w]e have 90 days to respond." Id.

OOR issued a final determination that dismissed Requester's appeal with prejudice. The final determination advised Requester that OOR lacked jurisdiction over his appeal because Clerk is a judicial agency.

Requester petitions for review from OOR's dismissal pursuant to Section 1301(a) of the RTKL, 65 P.S. ยง 67.1301(a). Clerk did not file a brief ...


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