Friday, December 18, 2015

Only OPRA requestors, not custodians, are allowed to initiate OPRA actions.


Update: On August 3, 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that custodians can, in some cases, file declaratory judgment actions against requestors
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In a December 18, 2015 published, thus precedential decision, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court held that:

1. OPRA grants the right to sue only to the records requestor. Thus, a records custodian may not sue a records requestor in order to enforce the custodian's asserted right to withhold records.

2. Similarly, but for different reasons, a custodian cannot sue a requestor to establish that records are not available to a requestor under the common law right of access.

3. Both OPRA and the common law require disclosure of documents containing the name of a firefighter who applied for financial relief from the New Jersey State Firemen's Association and its Local relief association and the amount of the relief award.  This ruling is based on the specific facts of this case which involved relief payments made to a volunteer firefighter who was fired from his Township job after he "was found to have viewed pornographic images on a fire district computer."  It does not grant access to the names and amounts of relief received by any other relief applicants.

The opinion in this case, Jeff Carter v. John Doe, is on-line here.

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