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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

05/13/14 AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF NEW JERSEY VS. NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BRUCE SOLOMON A-3381-12T1



05/13/14 AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF NEW JERSEY VS.
NEW JERSEY DIVISION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BRUCE
SOLOMON
A-3381-12T1
In response to a request for government records under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 to 47:1A-13, a government agency does not have the authority to redact an admittedly responsive document to withhold information the agency deems to be outside the scope of the request.  Absent   a   legally   recognized  exception    to disclosure,  a  citizen's  right  of  access  to   public information is unfettered.
We also reverse the trial court's decision to place the "onus" on the requestor to clarify or engage in negotiations   with   the  custodian  as a  jurisdictional prerequisite to instituting legal action to enforce his or her rights to access public information. This extra bureaucratic hurdle the requestor must clear before getting to the courthouse doors is untethered to any provision in OPRA and contravenes our State's strong public policy favoring "the prompt disclosure of government records." Mason v. City of Hoboken, 196 N.J. 51, 65 (2008); N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.