by Paul Rubell, Esq.
In yet another important development in privacy law that has erupted in 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed a lower’s court’s ruling that “there is no constitutional right to privacy in one’s home address under the Pennsylvania Constitution.” Mel M. Marin vs. Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Mel Marin was a candidate for Congress in 2010. The Pennsylvania Election Code requires a candidate for election to public office to provide his or her personal residence information on his nomination petition and candidate’s affidavit.
Mr. Marin asked the state’s highest court to declare this statutory requirement unconstitutional. He argued that “his privacy rights are greater than the [state]’s right to this information, that divulging his home address will subject him to threats of violence and potential physical assault or death, and that providing the information will ‘chill’ his speech and his efforts to become a candidate for public office because he will be afraid to speak out on issues of vital public importance.”
The Supreme Court based its decision on its prior ruling in another case , in which it held that:
“In this day and age where people routinely disclose their names and addresses to all manner of public and private entities, this information often appears in government records, telephone directories and numerous other documents that are readily accessible to the public, and where customer lists are regularly sold to marketing firms and other businesses, an individual cannot reasonably expect that his identity and home address will remain secret.”
In addition, the court pointed out that in order to vote in a general election, a person is required to state his or her home address and other demographic information. Why should a candidate for public office be held to a lower standard than is the general public?
The decision in the Marin case directly impacts another pending case in Pennsylvania that was brought by a teachers’ union. There, the goal of the union is to keep the residential addresses of teachers private.
What personal information should be kept private? What do the government and the general public have the right to know?