UPDATED: Read 5/9/2008 update to this article HERE.

Two Order to Show Cause hearings regarding the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) will be heard during the next few days.

  1. Paff v. Division of Law
  2. Docket No. L-592-08 (Mercer County)
    Date of Hearing: Friday, May 9, 2008, 10 a.m.
    Hon. Linda R. Feinberg, A.J.S.C.
    Mercer Courthouse, 175 S Broad St, Trenton
    Attorney for Plaintiff: Richard Gutman, Esq. of Montclair
    Attorney for State: Sarah B. Campbell, Esq., Deputy Attorney General

    Synopsis of Case

    A January 22, 2008 Appellate Division decision, concerning a defendant's attempt to have his arrest record expunged, revealed that the defendant, who was identified only by his initials, had sued the New Jersey State Police for using excessive force when they stopped him for drunk driving on December 11, 2004. The Appellate Division decision also revealed that all charges that the State Police brought against the defendant (driving while intoxicated, refusing to take a breathalyzer examination and resisting arrest) had been dismissed.  Ultimately, the Appellate Division reversed the trial court and held that the defendant was entitled to have his arrest record expunged.

    I submitted an OPRA request to the Division of Law for the defendant's civil complaint against the State Police and any settlement agreement that may have been entered into between the State Police and the defendant. The Division of Law denied the request on the grounds that it “does not specify a record” and that disclosure of the complaint and settlement would violate [the defendant's] reasonable expectation of privacy.

    The case documents, including briefs, are on-line at NJLP Open Government Divison of Law Page

  3. Paff v. Edison Township
  4. Docket No. L-2106-08 (Middlesex County)
    Date of Hearing: Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 9 a.m.
    Hon. Travis L. Francis, A.J.S.C.
    Middlesex Courthouse, Paterson St, New Brunswick
    Attorney for Plaintiff: Richard Gutman, Esq. of Montclair
    Attorney for Defendant: William J. Willard, Esq. (DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley)

    Synopsis of Case

    I requested that Edison Township provide me with its police department's Internal Affairs Summary Report forms and other Internal Affairs records. Edison denied the request on the grounds that it was "overbroad and open ended."  I sued for access to the summary report forms.

    A little more than a month after being served with the lawsuit, Edison disclosed the requested summary report forms and stated that unless I withdrew my suit the Township would seek an order requiring me to pay its attorneys fees and costs. It abandoned its original claim that my request was "overbroad and open ended" and instead argued that my request for the summary report forms was not clear enough and that since I requested both public and nonpublic records, I am entitled to neither.

    Since I have already received the records that I sued for, the only remaining claims in this case are for a declaration that Edison's denial violated the OPRA and whether I can recover attorney fees and courts costs.

    The case documents, including briefs, are on-line at a the NJLP Open Govenment Edison Page

John Paff
Somerset, New Jersey