Wiley v. Woods

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtBefore CHARLES ALVIN JONES; BENJAMIN R. JONES; MUSMANNO
Citation141 A.2d 844,393 Pa. 341
Decision Date26 May 1958
PartiesLillian R. WILEY v. C. Ronal WOODS, Planning Director, Department of City Planning, City of Pittsburgh and City Planning Commission, City of Pittsburgh, Appellants.

Page 844

141 A.2d 844
393 Pa. 341
Lillian R. WILEY
v.
C. Ronal WOODS, Planning Director, Department of City
Planning, City of Pittsburgh and City Planning
Commission, City of Pittsburgh, Appellants.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
May 26, 1958.

[393 Pa. 343]

Page 846

J. Frank McKenna, Jr., City Sol., David Stahl, Asst. City Sol., Pittsburgh, for appellants.

Smith, Smith & Zehner, Ralph H. Smith, Jr., Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Before CHARLES ALVIN JONES, C. J., and BELL, CHIDSEY, MUSMANNO, ARNOLD, BENJAMIN R. JONES and COHEN, JJ.

BENJAMIN R. JONES, Justice.

Lillian R. Wiley, appellee, petitioned the Planning Commission of the City of Pittsburgh to recommend to the City Council of Pittsburgh that a certain portion of Wallingford Street, located in the Seventh Ward of Pittsburgh, be rezoned from a 'C' Residence District to a 'B' Residence District. 1

On August 6, 1957, the Planning Commission denied appellee's petition because her rezoning request was inconsistent with a proposed zoning of Wallingford Street under a new and comprehensive zoning ordinance then pending before City Council. Subsequent to the Commission's denial of appellee's petition, an [393 Pa. 344] inquiry concerning the matter was made by a member of City Council. Pursuant to this inquiry a survey of the properties in that portion of Wallingford Street in which appellee was interested was made by a staff member of the Department of City Planning, field investigation notes were prepared and a report made on September 27, 1957 to that member of City Council who had made the inquiry. 2

Appellee sought to examine and inspect all data in the Department of City Planning pertaining to the petition for rezoning. The only data in that office consisted of (a) the report made to the member of City Council, (b) the record of the Commission's denial of the rezoning petition and (c) field investigation notes. The latter consisted of pages from an atlas upon which notations were made representing the properties investigated on Wallingford Street, indicating what the investigator learned from conversations with occupants thereof and from observations with respect to the use of each property. The report to the City Councilman contains a complete summary of the field investigation study; the only information contained in the field investigation notes omitted in the report is the identification of the investigator's notations with each particular structure in the area surveyed. Appellee was permitted to examine and inspect the report made to the member of City Council and the record of the Commission's denial of the rezoning petition but not the field investigation notes.

Appellee then instituted a mandamus action against C. Ronal Woods, Planning Director, the Department of City Planning of the City of Pittsburgh and the Planning Commission to permit her to examine all [393 Pa. 345] the records, including the field investigation notes, in the Commission's file with respect to the Wallingford Street matter. A hearing was held before the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County; after hearing, the Court directed appellants to permit appellee to examine and inspect the field investigation notes although the Planning Commission, in its discretion, was allowed

Page 847

to delete the names and addresses of any persons who furnished information to the staff investigator. This appeal questions the validity of that order.

Appellants contend that appellee has no right, either at common law or by statute, to examine the field investigation notes; that the Act of 1957, 3 termed the 'right to know' statute, excepts from disclosure such data as field investigation notes; that appellee's remedy by way of mandamus is improper. On the other hand, appellee's argument is three-fold: that both by statute 4 and at common law the field investigation notes are open to her examination; that the Act of 1957, supra, is inapplicable to her; that the deprivation of the right to examine the investigation notes violates her constitutional right to due process of law.

The Department of City Planning and a Planning Commission in second class cities were created by the Act of 1927, supra. Section 3 provides, inter alia, that the Planning Commission 'shall adopt rules for transaction of all business and shall keep a record of its resolutions, transactions, findings, and determinations, which shall be a public record.' 5 Section 8 imposes upon the Commission the duty 'to consult and advise with public officials and agencies, public utility companies,[393 Pa. 346] civic, educational, professional, and other organizations, and citizens * * *' in connection with its planning, and that its reports to the City Council 'shall be for the information of the public as well as of council * * *' Appellee contends that the 'field investigation notes' are 'resolutions, transactions, findings and determinations' within the language of this statute and, therefore, public records. Appellee's argument in this respect is without merit. Investigation data do not fall within the category of 'resolutions', 'transactions', 'findings' or 'determinations' under the statutory definition of public records. 6 Such a construction would be a complete negation of the plain statutory language and a misconstruction of both the legislative purpose and intent.

While it is true that our courts have recognized the right to an examination of public records, either under statutory grant or on common law principles (In re Simon Election Case, 353 Pa. 514, 46 A.2d 243; Commonwealth ex rel. Eagen v. Dunmore Borough School Directors, 343 Pa. 440, 23 A.2d 468; Butcher v. [393 Pa. 347] Philadelphia Civil Service Commission, 163 Pa.Super. 343, 61 A.2d 367), however, we find no reported decision extending the right of examination and inspection to data such as the instant investigation notes. Butcher v. Philadelphia Civil Service Commission, supra, In re Simon Election Case, supra, and Commonwealth v. Walton, 182 Pa. 373,

Page 848

38 A. 790, relied upon by appellee, do not sustain a citizen's right to an examination and inspection of records which do not fall clearly within the category of public records. The appellee, neither under the 1927 statute, supra, nor at common law, has the right of examination and inspection of these investigation notes.

The Act of June 21, 1957, supra, requires 'certain records of the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions and of certain authorities and other agencies performing essential governmental functions, to be open for examination and inspection by citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania * * *.' Section 1(2) defines a 'public record': 'any account, voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or disbursement of funds by an agency or its acquisition, use or disposal of services or of supplies, materials, equipment or other property and any minute, order or decision by an agency fixing the personal or property rights, privileges, immunities, duties or obligations of any person or group of persons * * *.' The legislature excepted, however, from its definition of public records 'any report, communication or other paper, the publication of which would disclose the institution, progress or result of an investigation undertaken by an agency in the performance of its official duties * * *.' The type...

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84 practice notes
  • Rosenblatt v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 31, 1959
    ...a resolution as 'a formal expression of the opinion or will of an official body or a public assembly, adopted by vote.' Wiley v. Woods, 393 Pa. 341, 141 A.2d 844, 847. Certainly here there was no formal expression of the opinion or will of the Turnpike...
  • Uniontown Newspapers, Inc. v. Roberts
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 24, 2003
    ...Fenstermaker, 515 Pa. 501, 530 A.2d 414 (1987) (common law right of access to affidavits in support of search warrants); Wiley v. Woods, 393 Pa. 341, 141 A.2d 844 (1958) (citizens with personal or property interest in public records may invoke right under Right to Know Act); Appeal of Simon......
  • R. v. Com., Dept. of Public Welfare
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • January 4, 1994
    ...to hearings before administrative tribunals. Soja v. Pennsylvania State Police, 500 Pa. 188, 455 A.2d 613 (1982); Wiley v. Woods, 393 Pa. 341, 141 A.2d 844 (1958). Indeed, in almost every setting where important decisions turn on questions of fact, due process requires an opportunity to con......
  • Lopez v. Fitzgerald, No. 50131
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • January 26, 1979
    ...should be revoked); Kottschade v. Lundberg (1968), 280 Minn. 501, 160 N.W.2d 135 (tax-valuation appraisal cards); Wiley v. Woods (1958), 393 Pa. 341, 141 A.2d 844 (data pertaining to petition for Linder v. Eckard (1967), 261 Iowa 216, 152 N.W.2d 833, citing the weight of authority, held tha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
84 cases
  • Rosenblatt v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 31, 1959
    ...a resolution as 'a formal expression of the opinion or will of an official body or a public assembly, adopted by vote.' Wiley v. Woods, 393 Pa. 341, 141 A.2d 844, 847. Certainly here there was no formal expression of the opinion or will of the Turnpike...
  • Uniontown Newspapers, Inc. v. Roberts
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 24, 2003
    ...Fenstermaker, 515 Pa. 501, 530 A.2d 414 (1987) (common law right of access to affidavits in support of search warrants); Wiley v. Woods, 393 Pa. 341, 141 A.2d 844 (1958) (citizens with personal or property interest in public records may invoke right under Right to Know Act); Appeal of Simon......
  • R. v. Com., Dept. of Public Welfare
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • January 4, 1994
    ...to hearings before administrative tribunals. Soja v. Pennsylvania State Police, 500 Pa. 188, 455 A.2d 613 (1982); Wiley v. Woods, 393 Pa. 341, 141 A.2d 844 (1958). Indeed, in almost every setting where important decisions turn on questions of fact, due process requires an opportunity to con......
  • Lopez v. Fitzgerald, No. 50131
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • January 26, 1979
    ...should be revoked); Kottschade v. Lundberg (1968), 280 Minn. 501, 160 N.W.2d 135 (tax-valuation appraisal cards); Wiley v. Woods (1958), 393 Pa. 341, 141 A.2d 844 (data pertaining to petition for Linder v. Eckard (1967), 261 Iowa 216, 152 N.W.2d 833, citing the weight of authority, held tha......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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