A Capehart Scatchard Blog

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 the government record or denying access. However, during a State declared emergency, public health emergency, or state of local disaster emergency, the custodian must make a reasonable effort, as the circumstances permit, to respond to a request for access to a government record within seven (7) business days or as soon as possible thereafter. 

In discussing “reasonable efforts,” the GRC advised that the custodian of records is required to respond in writing within seven (7) business days that an extension to a date certain is needed. The custodian should articulate the reason(s) for the extension, which may include retrieval of records located in storage, archives, or off-site; conversion of the records to a different medium; building access restrictions; and/or delay in available personnel needed to provide responsive records.

The GRC also recommends that the public agency advise the public (i.e., via its website) whether the transmission of OPRA requests has changed.


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About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


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