Big Week For Public Records Access Decisions

In the past week, there have been two new published decisions regarding the public records access.  Both are good news for record requesters.  First, the Appellate Division determined that discovery materials not filed with a court can still be accessed under the common law right of access.  The common law allows for a broader range of materials to be accessed than OPRA IF the requester can demonstrate a need or particular interest relevant to the material sought.  A law firm sought access to expert reports made for the State in other cases and the Appellate Division sent the case back to the trial court for determinations under the common law right of access to be made.  Drinker v NJ Dept of Law

Also, the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that the League of Municipalities – an entity that, among other things, lobbies for the interests of municipal government – is a “public entity” for purposes of OPRA and must release records under that law.   This is very important because now municipal officials cannot circumvent troublesome issues or seek out new laws that raise taxes by acting through the anonymity provided by League. Fair Share Housing v League of Municipalities

This decision will also aid in the case I filed, Scoblink-O’Neill v. Delaware Valley Regional Planning CommissionScoblink-O’Neill v DVRPC Complaint  That case seeks to determine that an agency created by New Jersey statute, funded in large part by New Jersey tax dollars and comprised of several New Jersey officials must comply with OPRA even though it operates in both NJ and PA.  In that case, my client requested records about a grant for Haddon Heights, NJ.  When she sought to challenge the material that was given to her as non-responsve and incomplete, she was directed to Pennsylvania records access appeal procedures which are far less favorable than OPRA.  (See also, the post below “OPRA vs FOIA is like Godzilla vs a Girl Scout Troop)

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