Argued: September 11, 2017
BEFORE: HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge HONORABLE ANNE E.
COVEY, Judge HONORABLE MICHAEL H. WOJCIK, Judge
these consolidated appeals under the Right-to-Know Law
(RTKL), we are asked whether addresses contained in
property tax assessment records, that are public under
statute and case law, are protected by the right
to privacy in Article I, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania
Constitution, as construed by our Supreme Court in
Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) v.
Department of Community & Economic Development, 148
A.3d 142 (Pa. 2016) (PSEA III).
for Union Reform (Requester) appeals from two orders issued
by the Butler County Court of Common Pleas (trial court) that
denied access to addresses it requested under the RTKL.
Specifically, Requester sought the property tax assessment
list (Property List) from the Butler Area School District
(School District), as well as its Superintendent's home
address. The Office of Open Records (OOR) upheld the School
District's denial of addresses of public school employees
based on a single-judge order issued by this Court in
litigation brought by PSEA. During the PSEA
litigation, this Court enjoined OOR from ordering disclosure
of school employees' home addresses based on a
constitutional right to privacy (Injunction Order). Relevant
here, OOR directed the School District to redact public
school employees' home addresses from the Property List.
Citing the Injunction Order, the trial court vacated
OOR's redaction order, and permitted the School District
to withhold the entire Property List. Because the trial court
erred in upholding the denial of access to addresses
contained in the Property List, we reverse the trial
court's orders and direct disclosure.
here, Requester submitted a RTKL request to the School
District seeking the Superintendent's home
address and an unredacted copy of the most recent
Property List. See Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 5a
(Request). The School District denied access, citing the
Injunction Order in the PSEA litigation. Requester
timely appealed to OOR.
permitted both parties to supplement the record. The School
District submitted an affidavit of its Director of Business
Services, Catherine Rodgers. R.R. at 84a (Affidavit). She
attested that the property tax assessment records do not
identify property owners' employers. As a result, the
School District could not redact home addresses of public
school employees from the Property List.
argued the Injunction Order did not bind school districts. In
addition, it asserted the Injunction Order was contrary to
this Court's subsequent decisions holding home addresses
were not protected by a right to privacy.
issued its final determination denying the appeal in part,
reasoning the Injunction Order precluded it from directing
access to public school employees' home addresses.
Pennsylvanians for Union Reform (PFUR) v. Butler Area
Sch. Dist., OOR Dkt. No. AP 2014-0777 (Final
Determination). The Injunction Order stated in pertinent
part: "The release of records maintained by public
school districts that contain the home addresses of public
school employees is hereby stayed until further order of this
court." R.R. at 80a (emphasis added). It further
provided "[OOR] is enjoined from directing the
release of records maintained by public school districts that
contain the home address of public school employees pursuant
to the [RTKL] until further order of this court."
Id. at 88a. Pursuant to the Injunction Order, OOR
directed the School District to redact the home addresses of
public school employees from the Property List.
the School District and Requester appealed to the trial
court. Requester challenged the Final Determination for
requiring redaction of public school employees' addresses
from the Property List. It also argued the Injunction Order
did not govern the School District. The School District
challenged OOR's redaction directive, asserting
impossibility of performance because the Property List
contained no employer information.
argument, the trial court relied on the record created before
OOR. As to Requester's appeal, the trial court affirmed
denial of the Superintendent's home address. By separate
order, the trial court granted the School District's
appeal, vacating the part of the Final Determination
requiring redaction of the Property List. Requester appealed
both orders to this Court.
directed by the trial court, Requester filed concise
statements of the errors complained of on appeal under Pa.
R.A.P. 1925(b). In its nearly identical Rule 1925(a)
opinions, the trial court reasoned it was bound by the
Injunction Order because it was issued by a higher court. Tr.
Ct., Slip Op., 10/15/14, at 7 (Dkt. No. 14-40163). As a
consequence, the trial court permitted the School District to
withhold the entire Property List.
briefing, this Court scheduled the appeals for argument.
Subsequently, our Supreme Court clarified that the 2009
injunction as to disclosure of public school employees'
home addresses continued as modified by the 2014 Injunction
Order. Upon Requester's application, we stayed the matter
pending the Supreme Court's disposition of the
here, our Supreme Court issued PSEA III in October
2016. In so doing, our Supreme Court confirmed the right to
privacy construed to protect home addresses sought under the
predecessor to the RTKL (Former Law) remained in force as
embedded in Article I, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania
Court consolidated the appeals and requested supplemental
briefs as to the effect of PSEA III. Requester
argued PSEA III did not compel withholding of the
Property List. The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association
submitted an amicus curiae brief aligned with
Requester's position. The School District moved to strike
the appeals based on mootness; Requester answered. Following
argument on the motion, this Court denied it. After argument,
matter is ready for disposition.
these consolidated appeals,  Requester argues the trial court
erred in holding the Injunction Order enjoins the School
District from disclosing home addresses of public school
employees because the School District was not a party to the
PSEA litigation. It contends the Injunction Order
did not bind the trial court. Regardless, it maintains the
trial court erred in extending the Injunction Order to
protect the entire Property List. Requester emphasizes that
the Property List is a public record under statute and case
law construing the Former Law.
School District counters the trial court's opinion was in
conformity with the Injunction Order. It argues the
Injunction Order bound school districts because it required
OOR to notify all school districts that disclosure of home
addresses were stayed pending resolution of the PSEA
litigation. It also contends the Injunction Order bound the
trial court because this Court is a higher tribunal. Based on
PSEA III, the School District asserts public school
employees' home addresses in the Property List are
protected by a constitutional privacy right.
current RTKL, [compared to the Former Law] 'significantly
expanded public access to governmental records ... with the
goal of promoting government transparency.'" Pa.
State Police v. Grove, 161 A.3d 877, 892 (Pa. 2017)
(quoting Levy v. Senate of Pa., 65 A.3d 361, 368
(Pa. 2013)). A "record" qualifies for access
through the RTKL when it "documents a transaction or
activity of an agency." Section 102 of the RTKL, 65
P.S. §67.102 (emphasis added); see Highmark, Inc. v.
Voltz, 163 A.3d 485 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2017) (en
local agency, the School District has a statutory duty to
"provide public records in accordance with [the
RTKL]." Section 302 of the RTKL, 65 P.S. §67.302.
Records in the School District's possession are presumed
"public" unless they are: (1) exempted by Section
708 of the RTKL; (2) protected by a privilege; or (3)
exempted "under any other Federal or State law
or regulation or judicial order or decree."
Section 305 of the RTKL, 65 P.S. §67.305 (emphasis
added). State statutes that designate public nature supersede
the RTKL. Section 306 of the RTKL, 65P.S. §67.306;
see Highmark (holding insurance statutes protected
outset, we emphasize that the only record at issue in this
appeal is the Property List. Requester sought a list
"that show[s] each property owner's name and
property address for properties within
the geographic confines of the [S]chool
[D]istrict." R.R. at 5a (bold added, italics in
School District uses the Property List to prepare tax
duplicates. See Section 677.1 of the Public School
Code, 24 P.S. §6-677.1. Although it originated with the
county, the Property List qualifies as a record
"of" the School District because the School
District uses it to conduct agency business. See Bagwell
v. Dep't of Educ., 76 A.3d 81 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013)
the RTKL, an agency may withhold a record based on a judicial
order. Section 305(a)(3) of the RTKL, 65 P.S.
§67.305(a)(3). Here, the trial court relied on the
Injunction Order to exempt the Property List in its entirety.
In so doing, the trial court fell into error.
the judicial order that forms the basis for exempting a
record from disclosure must apply to the record at issue.
Office of Dist. Att'y of Phila. v. Bagwell, 155
A.3d 1119 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2017). Our examination of the language
of the Injunction Order reveals that it pertained to the home
addresses of public school employees only. However,
there was no evidence that established the Property List
contained public school employees' home addresses.
Indeed, the School District submitted evidence that it could
not differentiate between the property addresses contained in
the Property List based on employer, because employers were
not identified. R.R. at 84a. The School District had the
burden to prove the application of its exemption. Pure
speculation as to a record's contents is not evidence
that may substantiate an exemption.
trial court cautiously, but erroneously, construed the
Injunction Order to apply to all property addresses contained
in the Property List. In so doing, the trial court in effect
extended the Injunction Order beyond its terms.
addition, as OOR recognized, the Injunction Order was limited
to home addresses only. However, there is no evidence that
all property addresses contained in the Property List
correspond to home addresses. Further, the School District
asserted no grounds to protect the entire record beyond the
alleged impossibility of redaction. Thus, the trial court had
no legal basis for vacating OOR's order to the extent it
required redaction of certain home addresses from the
vacating OOR's redaction requirement, the trial court did
not apply the redaction mandate under the RTKL. Section 706
of the RTKL, 65 P.S. §67.706, provides that records
shall be disclosed with the protected parts redacted. Our
Supreme Court requires redaction to ensure that public parts
of records are disclosed in accordance with the RTKL. See
Grove; Pa. Pub. Util. Comm'n v. Seder/The Times
Leader, 139 A.3d 165 (Pa. 2016).
the Injunction Order bound only the parties to the
PSEA litigation. Paterra v. Charleroi Area Sch.
Dist., 349 A.2d 813 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1975). The School
District was not a party to, and did not otherwise
participate in, the PSEA litigation.
short, the trial court erred by allowing the School District
to withhold the entire Property List. However, that does not
end our inquiry as the Injunction Order was for all intents
and purposes supplanted by PSEA III.
PSEA III & Privacy Right
PSEA III, our Supreme Court held the right to
informational privacy is guaranteed by Article 1, Section 1
of the Pennsylvania Constitution. It safeguards certain
"inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those
of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring,
possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of
pursuing [citizens'] own happiness." Pa. Const. art.
I, §1. Notably, in holding public school employees
enjoyed a right to privacy in their home addresses, the Court
drew upon its precedent construing the Former Law.
under the Former Law recognized a right to privacy inuring in
three types of identifiers: Social Security numbers,
telephone numbers and home addresses. See Tribune-Review
Publ'g Co. v. Bodack, 961 A.2d 110 (Pa. 2008);
Penn State Univ. v. State Emps.' Ret. Bd., 935
A.2d 530 (Pa. 2007) (PSU v. SERB); Sapp Roofing
Co. v. Sheet Metal Workers' Int'l Ass'n, Local
Union No. 12, 713 A.2d 627 (Pa. 1998) (plurality op.);
see also Times Publ'g Co., Inc. v. Michel, 633
A.2d 1233 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1993). In PSEA III, our
Supreme Court recognized the continued vitality of that
privacy jurisprudence under the current RTKL.
the scope of the right to privacy under Article I, Section 1,
our Supreme Court explained "the right … concerns
avoiding disclosure of personal matters. The object of such a
right is, in part, to protect an individual from revealing
matters which could impugn his character and subject him to
ridicule or persecution." Stenger v. Lehigh Valley
Hosp. Ctr., 609 A.2d 796, 800 (Pa. 1992). In
Stenger, the Court noted the right is not offended
when the information is rendered anonymous. It explained:
"With no name associated with the disclosure, no
disrepute can occur." Id. at 800-01.
address is a type of information that may be considered a
personal matter. Bodack; PSU v. SERB;
Sapp Roofing. In sharp contrast, the Property List
is a record of owners of taxable real property that has been
assessed to generate revenue for the government. A property
address contained in the Property List correlates to a
taxable property, not necessarily to a person's home.
Even the mailing address a property owner provides to a
taxing authority is not necessarily a home address.
Goppelt v. City of Phila. Revenue Dep't, 841
A.2d 599 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004). Thus, an address contained in
the Property ...