United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Barry Fischer United States District Judge.
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.
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
(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.
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)).
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.”).
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.
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
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, 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
(v) Victim information, including any information that would
jeopardize the ...