ALEC - AGs Request take 2 (Office of the Attorney General - Pennsylvania)

Alex Richardson filed this request with the Office of the Attorney General - Pennsylvania of Pennsylvania.
Tracking # SR-66077-H48P
Est. Completion None
Status
Payment Required

Communications

From: Alex Richardson

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to Pennsylvania Right to Know Act, I hereby request the following records:

- All electronic correspondences between members of this office and email addresses ending in the domain "@alec.org".
- All electronic correspondences sent to or from a member of this office containing the keywords "ALEC" or "American Legislative Exchange Council".
- Any files or documents attached to the above electronic correspondences.

The period of this request may be limited to the time period between 2010 and the present. If this request is still too broad to be accomplished by the office, I request that you contact me and I will advise on how to further limit the request.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Alex Richardson

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 19, 2015. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed.

Thank you for your help.

From: Right To Know Response

Please note our RTK response in the attachment above.

This response is being sent from an unmonitored site. Do not reply to this email.

The information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to whom it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged material. Any use of this information other than by the intended recipient is prohibited. If you receive this message in error, please send a reply e-mail to the sender and delete the material from any and all computers. Unintended transmissions shall not constitute waiver of any applicable attorney-client or any other applicable privilege. PA-OAG

From: Alex Richardson

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to appeal the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s decision to deny my Right To Know request under Section 703. I believe the denial is based on court precedents that have been in this case interpreted over broadly and which do not actually apply to my request.

I would like to note that I have made a similar request to every Attorney General in the country and that most were happy to provide me with responsive documents.

I would like to ask that my request be reconsidered and that responsive documents be released to me pursuant to the PA Right to Know Law.

My request was for the following:

- All electronic correspondences between members of this office and email addresses ending in the domain "@alec.org".
- All electronic correspondences sent to or from a member of this office containing the keywords "ALEC" or "American Legislative Exchange Council".
- Any files or documents attached to the above electronic correspondences.

In its denial, the PA Office of the Attorney General cited several court precedents which apply to Section 703 of the state’s RTKL. I have responded to each in turn.

The AG cited Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency v. Ali in an attempt to establish that my request was too broad. In that case, the court ruled that the language "any and all records, files or communications of any kind" was insufficiently specific, as it did not reference a particular kind of document. By contrast, my request was for electronic correspondences including a particular email domain, making it clear that this request is limited to emails specifically.

Next cited was Montgomery County v. Iverson. This case set a precedent that agencies which do not organize their archived emails in such a way that they can be searched by sender, recipient, keyword or other relevant factors are under no obligation to do so. However, the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General has not thus far asserted that its email archive is set up in this way, rendering this precedent potentially irrelevant to the case at hand. Further, if the AG’s email archive is set up in this way, I would like to note that this is comically archaic.

Mollick v. Township of Worcester is cited as reason for the keyword search that I requested being too broad. This is, again, a poor usage of the precedent. In that case, the OOR determined that the request being considered was not too broad, a decision which was overturned upon appeal. In that case, the requestor was asking for all communications “regarding any Township business and/or activities.” This is not comparable to a request that the agency perform a simple keyword search of emails and forward the responsive communications on to me. The former requires a judgement call be made, the latter is merely a search of emails by the terms that they contain and could be performed in under a minute.

In order to establish that the request for “all electronic communications” did not identify specific documents, the agency cited Askew v. Pa. Office of Governor. This case is particularly relevant and actually should be considered an argument in favor of disclosure. The request upon which that case hung was a request for copies of bills that had been ratified and presented to a Governor who in turn provided jurisdiction over a particular site or Borough. This was rightly construed as overbroad because it required a disclosure officer to make a legal judgement as to whether each potentially responsive document was, in fact, responsive.

The same court opinion cites its own decision in Department of Environmental Protection v. Legere, in which it ruled in favor of disclosure. In the court’s words, “there are no judgments to be made as to whether the documents are related to the request. The documents either are or are not section 208 determination letters.” Similarly, all of the documents to be considered in my request either are or are not electronic communications including certain keywords or to/from a particular domain - no judgment needs to be made.

Finally, the agency cites Pennsylvania State Police v. Office of Open Records in establishing that the agency is only responsible for supplying access to existing records that are public records and which are sufficiently identified. While I agree with this interpretation, I want to reiterate my assertion that the records I have asked for are indeed sufficiently identified. Numerous other offices of the attorney general across the country appear to have agreed with me, given that they have released documents to me in response to identical requests.

Further, it is perplexing that this case was cited in this manner, as it does not seem to be related to the point being established by the agency. In that case, the court reversed an OOR decision to release documents because those documents were deemed to contain investigative and victim information. It does not appear that the attorney general is making a similar claim.

For this reason, I would like to ask the Office of Open Records to exercise its authority to effect the release of the documents in question. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Alex Richardson
MuckRock News

From: Office of the Attorney General - Pennsylvania

A letter stating that the request appeal has been succesful.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 19, 2015. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #66077.

Thank you for your help.

From: MuckRock.com

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to follow up on the following Freedom of Information request, copied below, and originally submitted on May 19, 2015. Please let me know when I can expect to receive a response, or if further clarification is needed. You had assigned it reference number #66077.

Thank you for your help.

From: Right To Know Response

Please note our RTK response in the attachment above.

This response is being sent from an unmonitored site. Do not reply to this email.

The information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to whom it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged material. Any use of this information other than by the intended recipient is prohibited. If you receive this message in error, please send a reply e-mail to the sender and delete the material from any and all computers. Unintended transmissions shall not constitute waiver of any applicable attorney-client or any other applicable privilege. PA-OAG

  • RichardsonAlex 66077 RTK Response Subsequent to RTKL Appeal Decision

From: Office of the Attorney General - Pennsylvania

A letter stating the requester must agree to or prepay assessed or estimated fees in order for the agency to continue processing the request.

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