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Thursday, June 18, 2015

NORTH JERSEY MEDIA GROUP, INC. VS. TOWNSHIP OF LYNDHURST, ET AL. A-2523-14T1

NORTH JERSEY MEDIA GROUP, INC. VS. TOWNSHIP OF LYNDHURST, ET AL. 
A-2523-14T1 
In this interlocutory appeal, we reversed an order compelling the New Jersey State Police and several other law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to release various documents pertaining to an ongoing criminal investigation related to a fatal police shooting of criminal suspect. The trial court held release was mandated by OPRA and the common law right of access. 

We concluded the trial court interpreted too narrowly the definition of "criminal investigatory records," which are excluded from the definition of "government record" generally subject to disclosure under OPRA. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1. Also, the trial court's balancing of the requesters' interest in disclosure, and the LEAs' interest in confidentiality, was flawed, because the court refused to consider an in camera submission supporting defendants' claim that release would undermine the ongoing investigation into the shooting. On the other hand, we affirmed in part the holding that defendants failed to comply with their obligation under N.J.S.A. 47:1A-3(b) to release specified information about the investigation