Sunday, November 29, 2015

Unpublished trial court OPRA opinion.

"Unpublished opinions" are not published in the law books and are not ordinarily written about in legal periodicals.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 I think that it's important that court opinions, even if they are not precedential, are easily accessible for future use.

Robert Verry v. Borough of South Bound Brook
Somerset County, Docket No. SOM-L-817-15, SOM-L-1046-15
Hon. Yolanda Ciccone, A.J.S.C.
November 2, 2015
Click here for the court's decision.

Summary:  Requestor submitted eight records requests. Records Custodians found to have violated OPRA regarding two of those requests and Judge Ciccone required further submissions on the remaining six requests--most of them on the "specific issue of whether records being not 'currently available' requires a response from the custodian within seven days of the initial request."  Court ruled that custodian must provide log of e-mails in response to a request.  The Court appears to have imposed an additional burden on OPRA requestors who seek to recover their attorney fees.  According to the decision, counsel fees are to be awarded when "the purpose of OPRA was vindicated by the litigation."  Judge Ciccone said that she "remains unconvinced that all of [Verry's] requests vindicate the purpose of OPRA."  While Verry "articulated a reason for requesting the records related to" some of his requests, he "has not set forth any justification for seeking the requested records" in other cases.  Judge Ciccone said that she "fails to note how production of the additional records furthers OPRA's purpose."  Thus, she agreed to award partial attorney fees.

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