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CJ Griffin Quoted in Four Separate Publications regarding Proposed Changes to the Open Public Records Act

Various Publications

CJ Griffin, Partner and Director of the Justice Gary S. Stein Public Interest Center at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden P.C., was quoted by the New Jersey Monitor,, TAPInto Newark and in four separate articles about current proposed changes by lawmakers to drastically alter the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). The proposed restrictions on OPRA would limit access to government documents and public contracts, remove the right to challenge a denial of access in court, and rescind OPRA’s mandatory fee-shifting provision.

Without access to attorney’s fees, most members of the public will not be able to enforce their rights to obtain police internal affairs reports, dash camera videos, and so many other records that we have access to pursuant to the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions expanding the common law right to these documents,” CJ Griffin said to the New Jersey Monitor in an article titled “Court Ruling in Police Disciplinary Records Battle a Blow for Transparency, Critics Warn”. Not only would these changes to OPRA affect ability to view public contracts, but also restrict public access to police misconduct records and internal investigations.

Griffin was also highlighted in the New Jersey Monitor's "Morning Monitor" Newsletter.

In discussion with in an article titled “’Secretive’ N.J. Governments Would Be Even Less Transparent Under Proposed Laws, Some Say”, Griffin said “I really worry about the state of transparency in this state. We’re rapidly becoming far more secretive and our right to public records is becoming unenforceable.”

Griffin went on to highlight one of the most important changes in the act, the fee-shifting provision. “The only reason we have access to (records detailing) use of force, dash cam videos or body cam videos is because we had an attorney willing to say, ‘I will represent you and not charge you,’” Griffin said. “It’s a big risk if I will go all the way to (state) Supreme Court and lose. No one will be able to do that anymore.”

The ironic part, Griffin added, is that “now only commercial businesses are the ones who (could afford) to pay.

While speaking with TAPInto Newark in an article titled “Open Government Advocates Blast Pending N.J. Public Records Bills”, Griffin continued to express concern for the fee shift that attorneys would have to deal with if the changes are made to OPRA, stating “Most people can’t afford to pay an attorney for an hour of time let alone for the amount of time it takes to do a lawsuit.”

So, people are either going to just not challenge denials, which means they’re just going to deny whatever because they know there’s not a risk of having to get sued, or people are going file pro se, but they’re not going to have any legal training, and they’re going to be facing a lawyer who has unlimited resources,” said Griffin.

In an article published by titled “NJ Journalists, Lawyers Raise Red Flags About Proposed Changes to State Open Records Law”, CJ Griffin spoke extensively on the damaging aspects that this bill change could bring about. “Public agencies don’t give up records that make them look bad without a fight, and a requestor needs a lawyer for that fight to be fair,” said Griffin, who has litigated hundreds of OPRA cases, including many for “This bill guts that fee-shifting provision, meaning few people except the very wealthy will be able to enforce their rights to public records.”

Anyone who has ever filed an OPRA request knows that agencies constantly claim that the requests require 'research,' but we challenge those in court and the denial rarely holds up,” Griffin said. “This [proposed bill] is dangerous and essentially gives a custodian the power to deny any request they want without any oversight or check on that power.”

To read the full New Jersey Monitor article, click here.

To read the full article, click here.

To read the full TAPInto Newark article, click here.

To read the full article, click here.

To read more about CJ and her work with the Open Public Records Act, click here.

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