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Psychological Records' Denial Upheld; Specificity in Request Required under Pennsylvania Act

Pro se Pennsylvania state prisoner Amitha Nanayakkara appealed the court's dismissal of his petition for a writ of mandamus to obtain records for use in filing a civil suit in federal court. The denial and dismissal were upheld because the requested information was not "public record" under the Right to Know Act (Act).

Nanayakkara sought examination of his "inmate records," later determined to be psychological for the most part, in 1995 from the State Department of Corrections (DOC). The DOC claimed that he "must obtain a court order for this information." He then filed a petition in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. The court dismissed it for procedural inadequacies and failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

On appeal, the Second Division for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ruled that the trial court erred in dismissing the petition because it did so without preliminary objections from the DOC and did not specify the administrative remedies that Nanayakkara failed to exhaust. The court further held that the petition should have been brought to the Second Division as a petition for review; however, the requested information did not constitute "public records" under the Act and the dismissal of Nanayakkara's action was affirmed. See: Nanayakkara v. Casella, 681 A.2d 857 (Pa. Commw. 1996).

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Related legal case

Nanayakkara v. Casella