A Capehart Scatchard Blog

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 County Municipal Joint Insurance Fund, et al., the Appellate Division resolved the disagreement by holding that OPRA does not limit the right to request access to citizens of New Jersey.

The Court’s conclusion rests mainly on the parts of the statute which mandate disclosure of public records and which permit enforcement actions for failure to disclose. These provisions use the broad terms such as “person” or “requestor.” The Court explained that the term “citizen” when used in other parts of the statute which protect privacy or personal information is not intended as a restrictive word since specific provisions, like the one protecting personnel information, speak of “any individual” or “an individual.” These findings, combined with the legislative policy of promoting broad access to public records, persuaded the Court that a requestor seeking public records under OPRA is not limited to a citizen of New Jersey. Therefore, those individuals who reside outside of New Jersey are clearly permitted to make OPRA requests.

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Robert Muccilli

About the Author

About the Author:

Robert A. Muccilli, Esq. is Co-Chair of Capehart Scatchard’s School Law Group and a Shareholder in the Labor and Employment Group. For over 25 years, he has focused his practice in the areas of school law, and labor and employment. He has represented school districts with respect to a variety of education law issues involving students, teachers, school construction and special education issues including questions pertaining to inclusion, least restrictive environment, discipline, behavior management, transition, evaluation, discrete trial instruction, medically fragile students, dyslexia, Down Syndrome, Aspergers Syndrome, and equal access to activities and services for disabled individuals. He has also been recognized as one of South Jersey’s Top Attorneys as published by SJ Magazine. Mr. Muccilli is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and Washington, DC.

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