New Jersey Libertarian Party

The Party of Principle

Police Chiefs' group seeks entry into OPRA suit over e-mail logs

By way of background, Atlantic County Judge Nelson C. Johnson, on June 10, 2014, required Galloway Township to disclose e-mail logs showing the sender, recipient, date and subject line of each e-mail sent by a specific government employee during a specified period of time.  On September 4, 2014, Galloway appealed from that ruling.  More information and case documents are on-line here.

On October 23, 2014, the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police ("NJSACOP") requested permission to join the appeal as amicus curiae or "friend of the court."  The NJSACOP, represented by the Morristown law firm of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, P.C., argued that public disclosure of e-mail logs of police officials would be "crippling" and "could compromise the sensitive investigatory techniques of police departments throughout the State and irreparably damage the fluid and consistent exchange of confidential information within the departments."  The NJSACOP's filing is on-line here.

While the Appellate Division will likely grant the request, the NJSACOP's position doesn't make much sense. Galloway has never argued that the e-mails identified by the log (provided that they weren't otherwise exempt) weren't themselves subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).  Rather, the Township argued that producing a log would require it to create a new record that does not already exist--something OPRA does not require agencies to do. While the Township's position is understandable, the NJSACOP's argument that producing logs would compromise sensitive police investigations is frivolous because any sensitive information could be redacted from the logs in the same way that such information could be redacted from the e-mails themselves.