Monthly Archives: October 2015

GRC Rules that Agencies Must Accept Electronic Requests

While overwhelmingly most agencies accept emailed or faxed requests or have an online portal to submit OPRA requests, there are a handful of agencies that do not. The Government Records Council (GRC) recently ruled that the refusal to accept at least one form of electronically submitted requests violates OPRA.

On September 29, 2015, the GRC ruled in Russo v. City of East Orange (Essex), GRC Complaint No. 2014-430, that “the City’s policy of banning submission of OPRA requests electronically represents an unreasonable obstacle on access.” In its decision, the GRC recounted East Orange’s history regarding the issue of request submission policies.  In 2009, Paff v. City of E. Orange, 407 N.J. Super. 221, 228 (App. Div. 2009), the Appellate Division ruled that East Orange was not compelled by the statute to accept faxed OPRA requests since it did not have a designated fax line. However, it also held that an agency cannot “impose an unreasonable obstacle to the transmission of a request for a governmental record,” such as only accepting hand-delivered requests.  Since at that time East Orange also accepted “electronically submitted” OPRA requests, the Appellate Division held that the refusal to accept faxed requests was not unreasonable.

Now, however, East Orange only accepts hand-delivered or mailed OPRA requests. The GRC noted that not only did East Orange fail to notify requestors that it did not accept emailed OPRA requests. It also held that “[a]llowing for at least one form of electronic transmission method is reasonable in a time when citizens and public agencies are increasingly relying on technology to perform their daily duties. Additionally,  allowing for  at  least  one  electronic  method  will  provide  an  efficient  and expedient method for requestors to obtain records.”

Pashman Stein filed an action in July 2015 on behalf of Patricia Gilleran against East Orange, seeking an order compelling the City to respond to Ms. Gilleran’s e-mailed OPRA request. Oral argument on that case will be heard on October 28, 2015.

For more information about this blog post or any other OPRA question, please contact cgriffin@pashmanstein.com.

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CJ Griffin Quoted in The Trentonian News Article

CJ Griffin quoted in The Trentonian News article: Advocate sues AG’s office over lack of information in Radazz Hearns shooting

http://www.trentonian.com/general-news/20151020/advocate-sues-ags-office-over-lack-of-information-in-radazz-hearns-shooting

North Jersey Media Group v. Township of Lyndhurst Appeal Drawing National Support From Media

Numerous media entities have joined in an amicus brief filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, New Jersey Press Association, and ACLU of New Jersey in support of North Jersey Media Group’s Motion for Leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court in the case North Jersey Media Group v. Twp. of Lyndhurst, 441 N.J. Super. 70, 112-13 (App. Div. 2015).  Pashman Stein represents Plaintiff in this case, which has drawn national attention due to the Appellate Division’s holding which significantly limited the public’s right of access to police records.    A copy of the amicus brief can be found here:

http://asne.org/blog_home.asp?Display=1990