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Protection from Personal Document's Disclosure Does Not End With Death in Pennsylvania

Temple University law student Hayes Hunt petitioned the court to review the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections' (DOC) 1996 order denying his request for medical and mental health records of executed prisoner Leon Moser. The denial was affirmed and his other requests were dismissed for lack of sufficient specificity.

Hunt requested all files from SCI Graterford, where Moser was housed on death row, under the state's Right to Know Act (Act). He also requested all correspondence between Moser and the DOC, and claimed that no privacy issue existed since Moser was dead. The DOC stated that the requested documents were not "public records" under the Act, that a release from Moser would have to be obtained prior to the release, and that the documents "may be confidential or privileged" under various provisions of state or federal statutory or regulatory case law.

Hunt appealed the decision alleging various concerns regarding the execution, including that a federal court judge had ordered Moser's appearance at a hearing which never took place. The DOC argued that the requests lacked sufficient specificity.

The Second Division for the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that protection from disclosure of documents under Section III of the Act does not end with a person's death, and that medical and mental health records are not public records subject to disclosure. The court further held that under sections 66.1 66.4 of the Act, Hunt's requests lacked specificity; the court declined to rule on any of his allegations concerning Moser's execution because they were not present in the record on appeal. See: Hunt v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 698 A.2d 147 (Pa. Commw. 1997).

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Related legal case

Hunt v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections