On Friday, May 20th, 2016, the Commonwealth Court issued a monumental decision in John Doe, et al., v. Franklin County, et al., 1634 C.D. 2015, a case that I litigated, where it declared that the disclosure of license to carry firearms (“LTCF”) applicant information to anyone other than law enforcement acting within the scope of their official duties or the applicant (or someone approved by the applicant) violates 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(i), which results in “civil damages in the amount of $ 1,000 per occurrence or three times the actual damages incurred as a result of the violation, whichever is greater, as well as reasonable attorney fees.”
In a 45 page decision, which reviewed, inter alia, the history of Section 6111(i), the constitutionality of its enactment, the Pennsylvania State Police’s own regulations relating to it and whether a Sheriff can claim High Public Official Immunity in relation to it, the Commonwealth Court declared
“any person, licensed dealer, State or local governmental agency or department” violates Section 6111(i) of the UFA by revealing an “applicant’s name or identity” to a person not (1) authorized to receive such information by statute; (2) involved in the operation or management of the sheriff’s office; (3) representing a law enforcement or criminal justice agency; or (4) otherwise authorized by an applicant. Any other interpretation of Section 6111(i) of the UFA where a License applicant’s confidentiality is not safeguarded would be inconsistent with the UFA’s purpose and structure.
The Court also found that Defendants’ challenge to the constitutionality of how Section 6111(i) was enacted was untimely whether under the doctrine of laches, as Plaintiffs argued, or whether under the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Sernovitz v. Dershaw. Accordingly, although Plaintiffs additionally argued that Section 6111(i) was constitutionally enacted, the Court stated that due to the failure of Defendants, or any other party, to bring a challenge regarding its enactment in the past 18 years, any challenge was now untimely.
Furthermore, the Court found that the Sheriff was not entitled to High Public Official Immunity pursuant to Section 6111(i) and therefore declined to consider whether High Public Official Immunity is unconstitutional pursuant to Art 1, Section 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, as Plaintiffs had additionally argued.
Unfortunately, although 18 Pa.C.S. 6109(h) explicitly states that $1.50 of the fee paid is for purposes of the issuing authority sending the renewal notice, the Court declined to find that a civil cause of action exists for a Sheriff’s failure to issue renewal notices. Although the Plaintiffs brought a common law claim for breach of fiduciary duties, the Court found the Defendants were protected from that claim by the Political Tort Claims Subdivision Act.
While I am disappointed with certain determinations of the Court, I was pleased to see that many of my arguments and research were utilized by the Court in its decision and that it reached the proper conclusion regarding the confidentiality of LTCF applicant information.
If your confidential LTCF information was disclosed in some manner, whether via postcard, sign-in sheet or otherwise, contact us today so we can discuss your rights. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-313-0416.