Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Doe v. Plum Borough School District

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 30, 2017

JANE DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
PLUM BOROUGH SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court is the Motion to Redact Plaintiff's Name from Settlement Agreement or Related Documents. (Docket No. 135). Specifically, Plaintiff seeks an Order from this Court articulating the parties' respective responsibilities pertaining to redaction should a third party request a copy of the Settlement Agreement pursuant to the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law, 65 Pa. Stat. § 67.101, et seq. (“RTKL”). A status conference was convened on August 18, 2017, to address the matter (Docket No. 136), at which time all parties expressed their positions. Thereafter, lead counsel for the parties submitted a joint status report on August 25, 2018.

         The Court observes that § 67.305 of the RTKL creates a presumption that such documents are public records. However, the RTKL enumerates certain exceptions to this presumption. For instance, under § 67.708(b)(1) exempt records include:[1]

(1) A record, the disclosure of which:
(i) would result in the loss of Federal or State funds by an agency or the Commonwealth; or
(ii) would be reasonably likely to result in a substantial and demonstrable risk of physical harm to or the personal security of an individual.

         Plaintiff argues that the second provision applies, here. To this end, Courts in Pennsylvania have interpreted “personal security” to mean “‘freedom from harm, danger, fear or anxiety.'” Buehl v. Pa. Dep't of Corrections, 955 A.2d 488, 490 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2008) (quoting Travaglia v. Dep't of Corrections, 699 A.2d 1317, 1322 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1997)).

         However, the threat of harm to personal security must be “[m]ore than mere conjecture.” Commw. of Pa. v. Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, Inc., 105 A.3d 61, 66 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2014). Additionally, courts in this Circuit have recognized that the “‘existence of a common law right of access to judicial proceedings is beyond dispute.'” Haber v. Evans, 268 F.Supp.2d 507, 510 (E.D. Pa. 2003) (quoting Publicker Indus., Inc. v. Cohen, 733 F.2d 1059, 1066 (3d Cir. 1984). Thus, when determining whether or not to grant access to records, Courts must balance a strong public interest favoring disclosure against personal concerns over privacy. Id. (citing United States v. Criden, 648 F.2d 814, 823 (3d Cir. 1981)). See also Carnegie Mellon Univ. v. Marvell Tech. Group, Ltd., 2013 WL 1336204, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 29, 2013) (Fischer, J.) (“The burden is on the party who seeks to overcome the presumption of access to show that the interest in secrecy outweighs the presumption.”).

         Yet, where disclosure could work a serious injury, or cause unnecessary or serious pain and embarrassment to parties entitled to protection, privacy concerns will predominate. Haber, 268 F.Supp.2d at 510 - 11. Further, this Court is vested with “considerable discretion” when deciding if access to documents and records shall be granted. Id. at 510 (citing Pansy v. Borough of Stroudsburg, 23 F.3d 772, 786 (3d Cir. 1994)). The use of redaction in lieu of sealing a document or record may be an appropriate means of safeguarding privacy interests while also allowing access by the public. Id. at 512 - 13. Indeed, § 67.706 of the RTKL provides that:

If an agency determines that a public record, legislative record or financial record contains information which is subject to access as well as information which is not subject to access, the agency's response shall grant access to the information which is subject to access and deny access to the information which is not subject to access. If the information which is not subject to access is an integral part of the public record, legislative record or financial record and cannot be separated, the agency shall redact from the record the information which is not subject to access, and the response shall grant access to the information which is subject to access. The agency may not deny access to the record if the information which is not subject to access is able to be redacted. Information which an agency redacts in accordance with this subsection shall be deemed a denial under Chapter 9.

         The Court is also mindful of the order issued by Judge Gary Glazer of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in the case of The Pa. State Univ. v. Pa. Mfrs. Assoc'n Ins. Co., Case No. 03195, following briefing which this Court has reviewed. There, Judge Glazer granted a Motion to Unseal the Record, but required redaction of personal information.

         The parties do not, now, dispute that redaction of Plaintiff's personal identifiers from the Settlement Agreement is the appropriate course of action. The nature of the case, the amount of publicity it has garnered, and Mr. Ruggieri's eventual release from prison clearly pose definite, serious threats to Plaintiff's physical and emotional well-being, and have the potential to cause unnecessary pain and embarrassment to an individual already subjected to victimization. Moreover, as a victim[2], Plaintiff is also protected by § 67.708(b)(16) of the RTKL, which states that the following information is exempt:

A record of an agency relating to or resulting in a criminal investigation, including:
(v) Victim information, including any information that would jeopardize the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.