Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Unpublished trial court OPRA opinion.

"Unpublished opinions" are not published in the law books and are not ordinarily written about in legal periodicals. Unless somebody puts them on-line and calls attention to them, they are likely not to be located by people who may want to search for them. I think that it's important that court opinions, even if they are not precedential, are easily accessible for future use.

John Paff v. Hudson County Sheriff's Department
Hudson County, Docket No. HUD-L-388-14
Hon. Lawrence M. Maron, J.S.C.
May 9, 2014
Click here for the court's decision.
Click here for the parties' filings.

Summary:

1. Police incident reports and video recordings of a police incident are "criminal investigatory records" and exempt from disclosure even though the Division of Archives and Records Management (DARM) guidelines require them to be maintained.

2. Even if the incident reports were not criminal investigatory records, they are subject to the "ongoing investigation" excemption because, according to a prosecutor's certification, "the criminal prosecution . . . is still in the pre-indictment stage" and "release of the documents sought would be inimical to the public interest and a bona fide law enforcement purpose."

3. Even if the video recordings were not criminal investigatory records, the camera that recorded them "is disguised to blend in with the features of the building" and disclosing the video would reveal the location of the camera which, in turn, would show unsavory individuals "how to approach the Family Services Office without being seen by camera."

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