Posts from August 2014.

Some public agencies routinely deny access to invoices for attorney services, claiming that such bills contain information protected by the attorney-client privilege.  OPRA, however, specifically mandates that these bills must be made available in response to an OPRA request.  The public bills may, however, “be redacted to remove any information protected by the attorney-client privilege.”

Recently, a public agency attempted to charge a requestor an hourly rate for its attorney’s time to review the legal bills and redact them for privileged information. The public ...

Posted in OPRA Q&As

When a dispute involves a public agency, public property, or public resources, the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) can be an important information gathering tool, whether a lawsuit has already been filed or a party is simply gathering facts necessary to draft the complaint and initiate the litigation. Thus, OPRA is frequently used as a litigation tool by those who do business with public agencies or those who purchase or lease public property, such as construction companies and real estate developers.

Our courts have found that it is perfectly acceptable to use OPRA in lieu of written ...

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When you make a valid OPRA request, a public agency has seven business days to respond. But, if your request is invalid for some reason, the custodian can deny your request.  The clock will then start all over again if you re-write your request and re-submit it.  Here are some basic guidelines to help you craft requests that will be upheld by the courts:

  1. Make sure that your request seeks a record, and not information. Invalid Request ...

Pursuant to the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), meeting minutes must be “promptly available” to the public.  Our courts have held that “promptly available” means within two weeks after the public body’s last meeting or at least 48 hours prior to the next meeting. At any point after that, you are free to submit an OPRA request for the minutes and access must be granted within seven (7) business days.  But what about closed/executive session minutes?

OPMA allows a public body to meet in closed session to shield certain information from the public. Among other things, these ...

Posted in OPRA Q&As

Per OPRA, public agencies must respond to a request for records within seven business days. But what do you do if the government fails to respond (a deemed denial) or unlawfully refuses to grant access to the records?

The best course of action is to immediately speak to an attorney, who can work with you to gain access to the records. This frequently requires a lawsuit filed in Superior Court.  The most important thing to remember is that your action must be filed within the statute of limitations, which is 45 days. The process for filing in Superior Court is as follows:

  • A Verified Complaint and ...
Posted in OPRA Cases

Over the past few years, New Jersey courts have expanded the definition of “public agency” under the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) so that it covers more than what is traditionally thought to be a government agency (i.e. municipalities and state agencies).  Through a series of cases, our courts have made it clear that non-profit corporations can be subject to OPRA if they serve as an “instrumentality” of a public agency.

Last week, the Hon. Judge Peter E. Doyne held that the Rutherford Downtown Partnership (“RDP”), a non-profit organization that manages the ...

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