Attorney General Reassessing Appeal of ‘Right-To-Know’ Decision Over Pornographic Emails

HARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) – Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane yesterday announced that her office will reassess its appeal to Commonwealth Court of an administrative officer’s ruling authorizing the release of pornographic and racially/religiously offensive emails and all relevant materials under Right-To-Know requests filed by media organizations across the Commonwealth.

Circumstances have changed with respect to the Right-To-Know requests currently under appeal by the OAG’s office to Commonwealth Court. In the wake of the Attorney General’s call for Judge Carpenter to vacate the protective order covering this email chain, Judge Carpenter issued a statement the protective order did not cover these emails as they were not introduced as evidence before the 35th state investigative grand jury. Within 24 hours of Carpenter’s statement, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unsealed two orders ruling “there are no present concerns with grand jury secrecy associated with such release.”

While these orders speak to the emails themselves, they do not speak to additional documents associated with these emails. Accordingly, upon unsealing these orders, the Supreme Court stated: “The court is presently engaged in a broader review to determine whether additional associated documents lodged in the prothonotary’s office may now be unsealed.”

As the Right-To-Know requests filed with the OAG broadly cover the emails and all other materials related to them, the OAG is now awaiting the Supreme Court’s review of these “associated materials” so that the OAG has clear direction with respect to what materials it can and cannot disclose in its compliance with the outstanding RTK requests. It is our hope that such direction will be forthcoming prior to the Commonwealth Court hearing thereby making that hearing moot.

In the absence of direction from the Supreme Court prior to this hearing, the OAG intends to use the Commonwealth Court solely as a forum to seek a declaratory judgment from the Commonwealth Court as to substance and form of the OAG’s response to the RTK requests.

Attorney General Kane said, “I will not expose my office and the taxpayers of the Commonwealth to litigation or myself to further prosecution in the OAG’s response to the RTK requests concerning this email chain. To avoid this I am asking a court of jurisdiction to define what materials beyond the emails themselves can be released without violating grand jury secrecy laws covering these emails and their attending documents or the protective orders shielding their distributors.”


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