UPDATE (3/4/17): The New Jersey Supreme Court heard arguments in Paff v. Galloway Township on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. Paff’s attorney, NJFOG VP Walter Luers, presented argument before the Court.
The NJ Supreme Court has agreed to hear Paff v. Galloway Township, which concerns access to electronic records. Under OPRA, public agencies don’t have to create records to fill a request, but the GRC has said that querying a database — i.e., running a report — is not creating a record. Will the NJ Supreme Court agree? This case is big because it affects access to mounds of information that public agencies maintain in electronic form.
The plaintiff won at the trial level, but the Appellate Division reversed the lower court ruling and used such broad language in its opinion as to block access to a wide range of electronic records.
“If the Supreme Court doesn’t reverse this, it restricts the public to a paper world while the government will be operating in an electronic world.” – John Paff
New Jersey Supreme Court to Rule on Open Data Case
BY JAN HEFLER,
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
July 19, 2016
Press of Atlantic City
“State Supreme Court will hear S.J. open public records case”
by Vincent Jackson
August 30, 2016
Press of Atlantic City
Galloway started threat to public’s right to know; top court must end it
October 4, 2016
This editorial provides a nice summary of the issues in the case and strongly supports open records while noting that privacy concerns can be addressed through appropriate redactions when warranted. To quote the publication’s editor, “Allowing a broad exemption from the public’s right to know for information stored electronically would blow a giant hole in the Open Public Records Act.”
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
N.J. Supreme Court ruling could reshape what government information you get to see
By S.P. Sullivan
March 04, 2017
Fight for public access never ends
(also in the Asbury Park Press here)
March 5, 2017
This is a well-written editorial on why the NJ Supreme Court should overturn the Appellate ruling in Paff v. Galloway. “To do otherwise would have a chilling effect on public access in New Jersey as records increasingly become digital-only,” writes the author, who points out that many OPRA requests were predictably denied in the wake of the lower court ruling. The author states, “The default position of government is to release as few records as possible, not as many records as it can manage,” noting that the effort involved in producing the email log is nominal, particularly in comparison to the effort required to produce (review and redact) the emails themselves.