Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Right to Know v. Right to Reputation

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | July 18, 2018

No. 1,531


Image: review tracker.com

The Pennsylvania Constitution contains a provision guaranteeing the right to reputation. It has been applied in a number of cases.  The PA Supreme Court is about to shed additional light on this little known state constitutional right.

In January 2016, a Statewide Grand Jury was convened by Order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to investigate alleged child abuse by priests and others in six Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania, including the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The Presiding Judge of the Grand Jury Investigation, Cambria County Common Pleas Judge Krumenacher, had announced his intention to release the report of the Grand Jury to the public without redaction of names of individuals, some or all of whom are not to be indicted.  This action has been challenged by attorneys for a number of persons named in the report.  The appeal is being heard by the Supreme Court, which announced a briefing schedule.

Various media, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, have sought to force publication of the Report of the Grand Jury through the Right to Know statute, Act 3 of 2008.

While many of the names of many of the priests and other individuals involved have been made public through other proceedings, others have never been formally accused or publicly identified.

This right is set forth in Article I, Sections 1 and 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  Article I, Section 1 states:

“All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.”

Article I, Section 11 address the remedy for violation of the right to reputation:

“All courts shall be open; and every man for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person or reputation shall have remedy by due course of law, and right and justice administered without sale, denial or delay. Suits may be brought against the Commonwealth in such manner, in such courts.”

 Petitioners will argue that their Constitutional right to reputation will be violated by release of the grand jury report under the Right to Know law. Judge Krumenacker stated that he is proposing to release the report to protect the rights of children and he has no authority to redact names of persons who are not to be indicted, or any names.

While the particular issues in this case are matters of first impression, there are cases that construe the right to reputation.  In the next few weeks, we will explore some of them under a new category:  Right to Reputation.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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