Judge Rules in Favor of Judicial Watch Client: Bucks County, PA Acted in Bad Faith in Withholding School COVID Shutdown Documents – Court Orders County to Pay $3,000
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that a Bucks County, PA judge ruled the county acted “in bad faith” in withholding records that are, by law, public from Megan Brock, a parent represented by Judicial Watch who was sued by Bucks County to prevent the release of documents related to COVID restrictions and the re-opening of the county’s schools that she requested under the commonwealth’s Right-to-Know Law (County of Bucks v. Megan Brock (Nos. 2022-03083 and 2022-02979)).
In each of the two lawsuits filed by Bucks County, Judge Denise M. Bowman ruled on April 28 that the county must produce records Brock had requested under the Right-to-Know Law (RTK).
Judge Bowman also ruled that the county pay sanctions in the amount of $1,500 in each of the lawsuits. This is the highest amount allowed under the RTK.
The court conducted an in-camera review of the records requested by Brock, found that more than half were not properly withheld by Bucks County, and ordered the release of several records
The court also considered evidence submitted by Brock to the Office of Open Records which consisted of records that Brock obtained from another request that should have been but were not produced in the record searches in the lawsuits. The court agreed that these evidentiary records demonstrated that Bucks County had failed to “produce documents which clearly existed, fell within the RTK Requests at issue, and were not protected from disclosure by exemption.”
“These court decisions are tremendous victories for the ‘right to know’ of parents and citizens. Indeed, the Court recognized the bad faith nature of the outrageous government lawsuits against our client Megan Brock for daring to ask questions about crazed covid school shutdowns,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
On February 7, 2022, Brock sent an RTK request asking for all electronic correspondence by Bucks Co. Director of Policy and Communications Eric Nagy with Board Vice Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia, Board Chair Bob Harvie, former Director of the Commissioners’ Office of Public Information Larry King, Chief Clerk Gail Humphrey, and Health Department Director David Damsker from 8/10/2021 to 8/28/2021, on the buckscounty.gov domain. Also, all communications about Bucks County Health Department School Guidance.
On March 8, 2022, Brock sent an RTK request asking for a copy of an email sent to Acting Chief Operating Officer Margaret McKevitt on 8/23/2021 on the buckscounty.gov domain, which contained the final copy of the Bucks County COVID-19 Amended School Guidance, including all responses.
On July 18, 2022, Judicial Watch’s local counsel, J. Chadwick Schnee, filed answers to Bucks County’s lawsuits against Brock.
Judicial Watch was assisted by J. Chadwick Schnee of Schnee Legal Services LLC in Lititz, PA.
In July 2022, National Review profiled Brock and Jamie Walker, parents of children in Bucks County who led the fight to re-open the county’s schools during the COVDI pandemic, “and then to keep schools open and opening close to normal.” Brock and Walker “suspect county officials and two Democratic commissioners had a hand in updating the county’s guidance, and possibly overruling their own health director, a strong advocate for in-person learning. They believe Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf’s administration coerced the county into adopting its more restrictive Covid policies and its one-size-fits-all approach to school reopening.”