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Pennsylvania Supreme Court expands public access to financial records

February 19. 2013 4:25PM
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HARRISBURG—The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania announced it will expand its current fiscal disclosure policy – Rule of Judicial Administration (RJA) 509 – to include expenditure and personnel salary and compensation information by posting it on one website for easy access by the public. The site will be available on Dec. 17.

In 2009, the judiciary established a fiscal disclosure website providing search, view and print options for summaries of Unified Judicial System (UJS) contracts and purchase orders of $5,000 or more.

Today’s court order expands the financial information available on the website to include annual appropriation, expenditure, personnel complement and annual compensation information for the Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts and the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

The site will contain:

· appropriation names, descriptions and annual funding amounts;
· expenditure data, including the name and address of entity receiving payment, payment amount, applicable appropriation and fiscal year; and
· employee complement information, including position title and current annual salary, updated on a monthly basis, along with a list of total compensation for the prior year. Individual names will not be listed out of concern for employee security and respect for personal privacy.

The expansion of the fiscal disclosure policy is consistent with the principles of the recently enacted PennWATCH Act, balanced with the Supreme Court’s constitutional authority to independently administer the judicial branch. Like this action by the Supreme Court, PennWATCH is aimed at fostering accountability and transparency by mandating the posting of state government expenditures and compensation on a searchable website.

Even prior to the computer age, Pennsylvania’s judiciary had a policy of making fiscal information available to the public and media upon request. As the second (by one week) state judiciary to launch a website, Pennsylvania’s courts extended that policy by making millions of case records electronically available. With an earlier iteration of RJA 509, that electronic accessibility was extended to contract and purchase order summaries in 2009 and now that accessibility is expanded in a “one-stop shop” for other fiscal and personnel transactions.

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