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Right to Know Act Not Need Based, Only Statutory Definitions Required

Pro se Pennsylvania state prisoner Christopher Neyhart appealed the State Department of Corrections' (DOC) refusal to produce for inspection his urinalysis reports to prove his parole revocation was unfounded. The court held that Neyhart did not set forth any basis that the reports were an essential component of any decision, and hence were not public records under the Right to Know Act (Act), and affirmed the nondisclosure.

Neyhart demanded in writing that the DOC produce his urinalysis reports from April 25 through September 8, 1997 after being revoked from parole on September 11, 1997. After receiving no response he again requested the reports, amended to September 1 through September 8, 1997, because that report was the "gravamen for" his parole revocation hearing. Again receiving no response, he petitioned for judicial review. The DOC motioned to quash his petition alleging it was filed 51 days after their claimed January 6 denial date, and was therefore 21 days overdue. The DOC argued that Neyhart was not entitled to parole anyway and hence not entitled to inspect the reports.

The Second Division for the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that since the DOC's denial letter, dated January 6, 1998, did not indicate as required that it was also the mailing date of the letter, the court could not have known the actual mailing date and ruled that his petition was timely filed. The court affirmed the nondisclosure because urinalysis reports were not public records, but stressed that the Act was not dependant upon any need or justifiable reason to see a record and gives any citizen the right to inspect a public record so long as it falls within the definition under the Act. See: Neyhart v. Department of Corrections, 721 A.2d 391 (Pa. Commw. 1998).

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Related legal case

Neyhart v. Department of Corrections