Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Appeals Court: Town did not prove that surveillance video was exempt from disclosure.

Victor Ashrafi
Appellate Division Judge 
On May 13, 2015, the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, in a published and thus precedential case, discussed public disclosure of security videos taken by a stationary camera in a municipal building.  The decision, in Patricia Gilleran v. Township of Bloomfield, is on-line here.

In an opinion authored by Judge Victor Ashrafi, the three-judge panel rejected Bloomfield's generalized claim that disclosure of the videos would "jeopardize security of the building or facility or persons therein" or violate the rights of confidential informants and domestic violence victims who may be detected by the camera when they enter the municipal building.  Bloomfield conceded that township officials had not viewed the fourteen hours of recordings Gilleran requested.

The court, however, was careful to point out that its holding was limited to this particular set of facts.  The court noted that future cases might be decided differently if a municipality were to allege specific instances where crime victims and confidential informants might be identified or where security weaknesses, such as a camera's blind spots, would be disclosed.  The court said that each case has to be judged on its specific facts.

Finally, the court held as "impractical" Gilleran's argument that Bloomfield needed to review the entire fourteen hour recording and pinpoint the specific confidential material.  The court wrote that the "Legislature could not have contemplated that the OPRA disclosure requirement would engage the services of government employees to view video recordings from stationary surveillance cameras for hours upon hours to determine whether they contain confidential or exempt material."

Gilleran's attorney was CJ Griffin of Hackensack and Bloomfield's was Steven J. Martino of Bloomfield.  Amicus American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey was represented by Stuart J. Young.

No comments:

Post a Comment