A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Open Public Records Act

GRC Issues Guidance on COVID-19 Impacts on OPRA

As previously addressed on this blog, on March 20, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Assembly Bill No. 3849 into law which relaxes the deadline by which public agencies are required to respond to requests for government records under the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) during a period of a declared emergency, such as the current COVID-19 health crisis. On March 26, 2020 the Government Records Council (“GRC”) issued a special statement regarding the modification. Under normal circumstances, the custodian of records of a public agency must respond to an OPRA request within seven (7) business days by either granting access to […]

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OPRA Deadlines Relaxed Amid Declared Emergencies

Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. As a result of the public health crisis of COVID-19, on March 20, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Assembly Bill No. 3849 into law which modifies the deadline by which public agencies are required to respond to requests for government records during the period of a declared emergency.  Normally, under the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”), the custodian of records for public agencies has seven (7) business days to respond to a request made for government records by either granting access to the government record or by denying access.  Failure to respond within the seven (7) […]

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N.J. Supreme Court Rules on Student Records Issue – Part 2

Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. In last week’s article, we discussed the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in L.R. v. Camden City Public School District, focusing on the Court’s decision to extend the protections for student records under the New Jersey Pupil Records Act (“NJPRA”) to include redacted records. In its decision in L.R., the Court also affirmed the Appellate Division’s holding that a requestor could gain access to student records if they fell within one of the categories of “authorized” individuals and entities identified in N.J.A.C. 6A:32-7.5(e)(1) through (16). Specifically, the Appellate Division suggested, that the requestors could seek […]

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N.J. Supreme Court Rules on Student Records Issue – Part 1

Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. Under New Jersey law, student records are protected from public disclosure. “Student record” pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:32-2.1 means information related to an individual student gathered within or outside the school district and maintained within the school district, regardless of the physical form in which it is maintained. Essential in this definition is the idea that any information that is maintained for the purpose of second-party review is considered a student record. Access to student records by second-parties are governed by several state and federal laws including the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), […]

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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 1 Comment

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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