Court Hears Appeals of AG Major Discipline Disclosure Directives - NJ OPRA Blog
In mid-June 2020, the Attorney General of New Jersey issued two important police transparency directives, both of which have been challenged and were before the Appellate Division this week.
The first directive, Law Enforcement Directive 2020-5, requires future disclosure of the names of officers who have been subject to “major discipline,” which is described as a sanction of termination, demotion, or five or more days of suspension.
The second directive, Law Enforcement Directive 2020-6, orders the State Police and other state law enforcement agencies to make a retroactive disclosure, requiring disclosure of the names of those who have received major discipline for the past twenty years. The Attorney General also gave county and municipal departments the discretion to make retroactive disclosures and some have made the decision to do so.
Unfortunately, several police unions very quickly filed emergent appeals to stop the Directives from taking effect. The Appellate Division granted a temporary stay of the Directives until the appeals could be heard.
On September 16, 2020, the Appellate Division heard oral argument in the appeals, which lasted more than four hours. The full audio of the hearing can be downloaded via the Judiciary here.
CJ Griffin, Partner at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden and Director of firm’s Justice Gary S. Stein Public Interest Center, participated in the oral argument and filed a pro bono friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the National Coalition of Latino Officers (NCLO) and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), two non-profit organizations comprised of current and former law enforcement officers. These organization’s asked the court to uphold the Directives and argued that transparency earns the public’s trust, which leads to members of the public being more likely to cooperate with investigations, report crimes, and ensure that police departments have proper resources to perform their jobs safely. Additionally, the AG’s transparency Directives would greatly benefit officers of color and women officers because it would allow organizations like NCLO to identify racial and gender disparities in how major discipline has been imposed upon officers.
The Trentonian has published an article summarizing the Appellate Division arguments, which can be viewed here:
CJ Griffin, an attorney for the National Coalition of Latino Officers and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, said her clients “really want the court to know that not all police officers agree with the unions’ position. In this case, many of the officers are advocates of transparency.”
Griffin said her clients support transparency and believe “transparency really benefits police officers.”