Burlington Judge Rebuffs PBA, Orders Disclosure of Redacted Log of Internal Affairs Complaints Against County Corrections Officers
In an August 31, 2016 ruling, Burlington County Assignment Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder denied Burlington County's and the New Jersey Police Benevolent Association's (PBA) bid to reverse his previous decision calling for disclosure of a redacted list of Internal Affairs complaints against corrections officers at the Burlington County Correctional and Detention Facility.
In his ruling in John Paff v. Burlington County, et al., Docket No. BUR-L-36-15, Bookbinder wrote that disclosure of the list, with the names of the officers redacted, will help me to "research the frequency and nature of complaints brought against Burlington County Corrections Officers" without jeopardizing "the privacy interests and potential safety concerns of the officers named on the list."
In response to the PBA's argument that the list should be suppressed in its entirety, Bookbinder wrote that "New Jersey courts have long recognized that police officers are held to a high standard of conduct" and that "there are strong public policy concerns that weigh in favor of the release of the requested record."
Bookbinder's decision does not go as far as an October 16, 2014 decision by former Bergen County Assignment Judge Peter E. Doyne in John Paff v. Bergen County, et al., Docket No. BER-L-7739-14. That decision, which is presently under appeal, held that I was entitled to the list of complaints with the officers' names disclosed.
It is presently unknown whether Burlington County or the PBA will appeal Bookbinder's ruling.
Bookbinder's decision is consistent with a May 26, 2015 decision in John Paff v. Warren County, et al, Docket No. WRN-L-417-14 by Superior Court Judge John H. Pursel. There, Warren had given me a list of Internal Affairs complaints with the officers' names redacted and Pursel held that I was not entitled to an unredacted version of the list.
The only other case I filed seeking a log of corrections officer Internal Affairs matters was John Paff v. Cape May County, Docket No. CPM-L-373-14. In that case, the County turned over the list prior to the court ruling on the case.
I am being represented in the Burlington and Bergen cases (and was represented in the Cape May and Warren cases) by Donald M. Doherty of West Berlin.