YDR/SN to appeal court decision on 911 time-response logs

The York Daily Record/Sunday News will appeal a York County judge’s decision that time-response logs do not include addresses, editor James McClure said today.

The newspaper will ask a Commonwealth Court judge to uphold a decision by the state’s Office of Open Records, which ruled that time-response logs must include addresses or some kind of geographic locator.

York County appealed the OOR’s ruling to common pleas court, and on Dec. 10, Renn reversed the OOR’s decision, ruling that time-response logs include only a set of times.

Here are the key arguments in the case. (More comments from the county are here; scroll down until you see county lawyer Mike Flannelly’s name.)

More background here, and more on why the YDR believes addresses or geographic locators are part of 911 time-response logs, as made public by the state’s new right-to-know law.

About Scott Blanchard

Sunday editor at the York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.
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4 Responses to YDR/SN to appeal court decision on 911 time-response logs

  1. Chronic Iguana says:

    No. No. No.
    You can’t appeal Renn’s decision on the grounds that the addresses should be part of a public record that doesn’t exist. The appeal must be based on Renn’s assertion of a legislative anticipation of privacy that is not found in the statute and does not exist. This is Renn’s error. Get the appellate court to rule on the error, then put it back into his courtroom.
    You can’t compel the creation of a record that doesn’t exist. And addresses don’t exist in the public record you were seeking. Your only hope if you go this route is to demonstrate that the omission of the addresses were, in some way, intended to thwart the public’s right to know. A tough row to hoe.
    Overturn Renn on the privacy issue, then attack the county’s record keeping. Niles is in new territory here. Take it from someone who has been there and done that.

  2. CI,
    Thanks. Hopefully, from our end, what you laid out in your first graf is what will happen.
    One other thought: The law is clear, as you note, that an agency doesn’t have to create a record that doesn’t exist. But the law also gives the Office of Open Records — according to the OOR’s decision in this case (and others, I believe) — the authority to define a record if it is not otherwise defined in the law.
    So here, the OOR is saying: Time-response logs include addresses. Therefore, an agency would have to produce that record, regardless of whether they produced it before OOR made its decision. It’s my understanding that that is the law, until/unless it’s overturned, which in this case it obviously was.
    So how does that play in Commonwealth Court? Will the OOR’s initial decision matter to a CC judge, or will that judge only rule on the legal validity, if that’s the right word, of Renn’s decision?

  3. Chronic Iguana says:

    Niles is a pretty fair lawyer, one who can best guide you through this minefield you are about to trod.
    That said, you and the commonwealth are going through a bit of a learning curve that will define what the law is and what the law isn’t. Your appeal will become part of the law, for better or for worse.
    My hunch, based on my experience with the commonwealth’s appellate courts, is the the OOR’s decision won’t mean a pitcher full of piss to a Commonwealth Court judge.
    Your appeal is based on Renn’s ruling. Does Renn’s creation of a right to privacy that doesn’t exist in the statute constitute error? Appellate judges like cases that are nice and clean. I would argue that if names and addresses are private, then county control has no business broadcasting them. Which, of course, is about as ridiculous as Renn’s invention of privacy.
    You may, however, inherit a court who decides to hear the case de novo. Not too far-fetched considering Renn’s nonsensical privacy hook. Then you are back to arguing what a record SHOULD contain. Those dots are going to be hard to connect.
    I would reckon that once the case is assigned, Niles will take the temperature of the court and decide the best course of action. Meanwhile, I think Niles and Mike ought to have lunch, where the main item on the menu ought to be “do you really want to go here?”

  4. Chronic Iguana says:

    PS: Yeah, the law gives the OOR the right to define a record as a public record. It does not give the OOR the right to define a record that doesn’t exist as a record. The OOR can’t create something from nothing.
    You are entitled to access to the pieces of a record that doesn’t exist. You are not entitled to force the public agency to put those pieces together. Our courts have repeatedly ruled on this one, and your courts will likely go the same way.
    The PNPA ought to suggest tbat when the legislature takes up corrective measures to the RTK Law, that it simply copies and pastes Florida’s time and court tested law into the statute. Kind of hard to argue against something that has worked quite well for the past two decades or more. And I would be quite happy to come North and testify. Wouldn’t be the first time.
    We employ the top First Amendment lawyer in the state. His name is on every landmark case heard by the appellate courts. Email me. He might be able to give Niles some guidance. And BTW, I introduced the YDR to Niles when I retained him after a former county commissioner sued the paper and me. Reckon they were impressed. Not by me, him.

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