Appellate Court ruling: No residency requirement for OPRA

UPDATE (5/16/2018):  An Appellate Court ruled today that the right to request records under OPRA is not limited to New Jersey residents. The ruling upheld a lower court opinion in Burlington County and reversed those in Cape May and Atlantic Counties. The three cases were consolidated for the purpose of the Appellate review.

In the last few years, trial courts in Burlington, Ocean, and Gloucester Counties ruled non-residents have standing under OPRA, while courts in Cape May and Atlantic Counties ruled they don’t, and a Bergen County judge ruled a requestor does not need to provide street address.  The Appellate Court decision has statewide application.

An excerpt from the 5/16/2018 Appellate Court opinion:

“We conclude that the reference to “citizens” — found in N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 and nowhere else in OPRA — expresses the Legislature’s general intent to make New Jersey government records open to the public, rather than expressing an intent to limit access to only New Jersey residents or domiciliaries. Because the more specific provisions of OPRA refer to “any person,” and because OPRA is to be construed broadly to achieve the Legislature’s over-arching goal of making public records freely available, we conclude that the right to request records under OPRA is not limited to “citizens” of New Jersey.”


UPDATE (4/03/2017): A Bergen Judge has ruled that an OPRA requestor does not need to provide his address. Read more HERE.


UPDATE (Jan. 2017):  Judge Georgia M. Curio has rejected a motion to reconsider her October 2016 decision, which held that OPRA can be used by all, not just state residents.  Read more HERE.


UPDATE (10/13/2016): Georgia M. Curio, Assignment Judge for the Gloucester /Salem /Cumberland vicinage, has ruled that OPRA can be used by all, not just New Jersey residents. Read more HERE.


UPDATE (Aug. 2016): Now the Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland vicinage has been asked to weigh in!  Read more HERE.


UPDATE (4/18/2016): An Ocean County Court Judge is the most recent to address the issue of whether a non-resident can make an OPRA request and opined that the Legislature did not intend to limit OPRA’s use to only state residents.  Read more HERE.


UPDATE (3/13/2016):   ACLU of New Jersey is appealing a Feb. 19 Atlantic County Superior Court decision upholding Atlantic City School District’s denial of public records to a Washington D.C. advocacy group because the group is based out-of-state.  An Appellate Division decision has statewide application, so this is one to watch!   See our website HERE.


Original post:


Do non-residents of New Jersey have standing under OPRA?


Burlington County Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder ruled last year that you don’t have to live in New Jersey to enforce your rights under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

Cape May County Judge Nelson Johnson recently ruled the opposite way. And interestingly, both cases have the same plaintiff.

According to attorney CJ Griffin, who represented the plaintiff in both cases, Judge Johnson’s current ruling differs from his ruling in another case in 2009 when a requestor argued that limiting OPRA to citizens violated the constitution. Then, Griffin notes, “Judge Johnson ruled there was no constitutional violation because OPRA permits “any person” to use OPRA, not just “citizens.””

Further, the Philly Voice reports that it was an out-of-state resident — a U.S. Senator — who obtained documents and was among the first to expose the Atlantic City corruption that is the subject of Judge Johnson’s book, Boardwalk Empire. So it is ironic that Johnson has now ruled that out-of-staters lack standing under OPRA.

The favorable Burlington County decision is now being appealed.

Stay tuned!





Our view: Citizens-only one way to discourage abusive public records requests
Press of Atlantic City
March 7, 2016


Judge: Anyone May Access Records
Cape May County Herald
By Karen Knight
Oct. 21, 2016


Judge Won’t Reconsider OPRA Decision, Non-Residents May View Public Records
Cape May County Herald
By Karen Knight
Jan. 19, 2017


Press of Atlantic City
North Carolina man can request New Jersey records, judge rules
by Molly Bilinski, Staff Writer
May 18, 2018