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CJ Griffin Discusses Proposed Changes to OPRA with The Retrospect

The Retrospect

CJ Griffin, partner and director of the Justice Gary S. Stein Public Interest Center at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden P.C., was extensively quoted in an article by The Retrospect titled “Thorny Issues Surround OPRA Request Forms.” The article discusses how New Jersey legislators in Trenton are drafting potentially significant changes to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

Transparency advocates like CJ Griffin worry about what revisions legislators could make during the lame duck session, the period after the November election and before the new legislature members are sworn into office.

We’ve heard so many different things from different people and that’s a core problem. There’s talk of rushing it through lame duck, but here we are at the end of the year and we don’t even know what those bills are. So how could we really have a meaningful, robust public debate about it and get input from the public and reporters and non-profit organizations? That’s my overarching concern,” said Griffin.

“Maybe they don’t like it, but a role of government is holding and recording land deeds, recording property records, recording motor vehicle accidents. It’s core government 101,” Griffin said. “I don’t think that should be a justification to gut OPRA.”

Despite some sharp disagreements, there seems to be potential common ground between records custodians begging for reform on commercial requests and transparency advocates. Griffin said she could be okay with some kind of reform on commercial requests, but overall, she advocates for expanding and strengthening OPRA.

Much of the issue lies in the lack of resources for clerks. Griffin said that she would support the legislature providing grants for agencies to purchase software to publish OPRA requests and responses online, which would save everyone time. However, such grants do not appear to be ones reportedly being considered by the legislators.

There are so many documents that can be put online that are not costly to upload and store, but many agencies don’t even do those bare minimums,” Griffin wrote in an email to The Retrospect.

To read the full Retrospect article, click here.

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