Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Supreme Court exempts security camera footage from OPRA disclosure.

In a November 22, 2016 decision, a 4 to 2 majority of the New Jersey Supreme Court held that footage from a town hall security camera is not subject to disclosure under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).  The four-Justice majority, through an opinion authored by Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, was concerned that disclosure of security video could reveal the security camera's vulnerabilities.  According to the decision, "it takes no stretch of the imagination to realize that [releasing security footage on demand] would make it possible for any person to gather the information necessary to dismantle the protection provided by such security systems." 

The majority did not, however, deny the requestor's claim under the common law right of access, which mandates a balancing of the requestor's need for disclosure versus the government's need for confidentiality.  The court remanded the matter back to the trial court for such a balancing.

In his dissent, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner found that while the majority offered "sound reasons" for excluding security camera footage from OPRA, its view is not consistent with what the Legislature wrote when it enacted OPRA.  According to Rabner's dissent, "The Legislature could have written [a blanket security footage exemption] standard into the law but did not."

The case is captioned Patricia Gilleran v. Township of Bloomfield, et al, and Gilleran's attorney was CJ Griffin of Hackensack.  Amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs were submitted by the Attorney General's office, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (along with several other media groups).


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