A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Open Public Records Act

N.J. Supreme Court Rules on OPRA’s Privacy Provision

On May 23, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Brennan v. Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, issued an important decision regarding the Open Public Records Act’s (“OPRA”) privacy provisions. Often times, school districts and other public entities deny OPRA requests on the basis that they are protecting the privacy of others. In these situations, the Court clarified that the public entity must first show that disclosure of the records would invade a “person’s reasonable expectation of privacy” before advancing any privacy arguments to withhold the documents. This case involved Plaintiff’s OPRA request to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office (“BCPO”) seeking […]

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Use of OPRA Not Limited to Citizens of New Jersey

By: Robert A. Muccilli, Esq. Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. School districts sometimes receive requests for public records from a requestor in another state. Some of these requests come from data mining companies that seek to provide information about school district contracts and vendors to commercial entities. Fulfilling these requests can involve a considerable expenditure of time and effort by the records custodian. Trial court decisions addressing the question of whether an out-of-state requestor may make a valid request for records under the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) have reached different conclusions. On May 16, 2018, in Scheeler v. Atlantic […]

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Draft Meeting Minutes Not Subject to Disclosure Under OPRA

By on February 20, 2018 in Open Public Records Act with 0 Comments

By: Robert A. Muccilli, Esq. Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. Now and then even the Government Records Council (“GRC”) is sued. In a published decision issued on January 26, 2018 by the New Jersey Appellate Division in Libertarians for Transparent Government v. Government Records Council and Frank Caruso, the plaintiff alleged that the GRC violated the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) and the common law by failing to produce draft minutes of a GRC meeting. Finding that the draft minutes were protected by the deliberative process privilege, the trial court rejected the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the plaintiff […]

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Appellate Division Expands Right to Electronically Stored Information Under OPRA

By on January 23, 2018 in Open Public Records Act with 0 Comments

In June 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Paff v. Galloway Township expanded the scope of the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) to require public entities to produce information relating to the “sender,” “recipient,” “date,” and “subject” of emails even if that means the agency would need to create a new document. On January 12, 2018, the New Jersey Appellate Division continued to expand the right to electronically stored information under OPRA in the published decision Conley v. New Jersey Department of Corrections, Docket No. A-4754-14T3. The legal question before the Appellate Division in this case was whether data […]

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OPRA Does Not Require Disclosure of Reasons for Public Employee’s Voluntary Resignation

By on January 11, 2018 in Open Public Records Act with 0 Comments

By: Cameron R. Morgan, Esq. Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. In a case construing the “personnel records” exception to the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”), the Appellate Division recently held that OPRA does not require disclosure of detailed reasons for a government employee’s resignation, where public records do not contain such information. There are 21 exceptions to the definition of a “government record” under the OPRA statute, few of which are as frequently the source of litigation as the exception for personnel records. This is most likely because there are three exceptions to that exception itself, two of which permit […]

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Appellate Division Limits Attorneys’ Fees in OPRA Case

By on December 12, 2017 in Open Public Records Act with 0 Comments

On November 27, 2017, the New Jersey Appellate Division in Kennedy v. Montclair Center Corporation Business Improvement District issued an unpublished decision in which it determined that the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) does not entitle a plaintiff to attorneys’ fees after the public agency satisfied his document request. Scott Kennedy made an OPRA request to the Montclair Center Corporation Business Improvement District (“Montclair Center”). Not having received an adequate response, Kennedy filed suit against the Montclair Center alleging that it had no OPRA custodian, had no OPRA request form, and charged excessive copying costs in violation of OPRA. After […]

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Appellate Division Overturns GRC in OPRA Case Involving Release of Settlement Agreement

By on November 21, 2017 in Open Public Records Act with 0 Comments

On November 15, 2017, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued an unpublished decision in Scheeler v. Galloway Township regarding an Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) request seeking a settlement agreement between Galloway Township (“Galloway”) and its former manager. In short, the Appellate Division found that the document in question constituted a final settlement agreement subject to disclosure under OPRA contrary to the position of Galloway. On November 12, 2014, Galloway adopted a resolution in public session authorizing the settlement of the litigation between it and the former manager. Specifically, the resolution stated that Galloway’s agreement to settle was subject to […]

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Appellate Division Remands Case on Disclosure of Student Records Under OPRA

By on October 17, 2017 in Open Public Records Act with 0 Comments

When is a student record, such as a settlement agreement involving a special education student or a request for an independent special education evaluation, subject to disclosure in response to a request under the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”)? According to the Appellate Division’s published decision dated October 16, 2017 in L.R. v. Camden City Public School District, et al., the answer is that disclosure is permitted when the requestor is one of the sixteen (16) authorized organizations, agencies, or persons identified in regulations adopted by the New Jersey Department of Education to implement the New Jersey Pupil Records Act […]

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Appellate Division Finds Willful and Deliberate Violation of OPRA

In recent months, the New Jersey courts have issued several decisions regarding a public entity’s obligations under the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”). In case you missed them, check out our articles from June 20 and June 27 regarding recent OPRA cases. This week’s article will focus on Gordon v. City of Orange in which the New Jersey Appellate Division on June 23, 2017 reversed and remanded the Government Records Council’s (“GRC”) ruling that the City did not knowingly and willfully violate OPRA by failing to respond to a request for records seeking disability insurance payments made to the City […]

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N.J. Supreme Court Rules in OPRA Case Involving Email Logs

It’s not very often we hear from our State’s Supreme Court on cases involving the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”). On June 20, 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Paff v. Galloway Township expanded the scope of OPRA to require public entities to produce information relating to the “sender,” “recipient,” “date,” and “subject” of emails even if that means the agency would need to create a new document. In June 2013, John Paff made an OPRA request under N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq. to Galloway Township (“Township”) seeking fields of information from all emails sent by the Township Clerk and […]

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