Residents of Pennsylvania have no constitutional right to keep their home address private.
That was the decision reached last week by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which affirmed the January 2012 ruling of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in the case of an Erie man whose candidacy for public office in 2010 was rejected because of his refusal to provide his home address when filing campaign documents.
Mel M. Marin had claimed that providing his home address while running for office would have exposed him to threatened or actual violence and have the effect of intimidating him into silence.
In dismissing Marin's argument as "absurd," the Commonwealth Court cited the Supreme Court's earlier ruling in a 2003 case where it issued the opinion that keeping one's home address private "is not an expectation which society would be willing to recognize as objectively reasonable in light of the realities of our modern age."
Whether registering to vote, applying for a driver’s license, applying for a job, opening a bank account, paying taxes, etc., it is all but impossible to live in our current society without repeated disclosure of one’s name and address, both privately and publicly. There is nothing nefarious in such disclosures. An individual’s name and address, by themselves, reveal nothing about one’s personal, private affairs. Names and addresses are generally available in telephone directories, property rolls, voter rolls, and other publications open to public inspection. In addition, it has become increasingly common for both the government and private companies to share or sell name and address information to unaffiliated third parties.
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.
-Commonwealth v. Duncan, 572 Pa. 438, 817 A.2d 455 (2003)
Terry Mutchler, executive director of the state's Office of Open Records, told the Associated Press last week that the decision has “profound implications” for other cases. Disputes involving the purported privacy of home addresses have reportedly been frequent under the state's Right-to-Know law.