In an unpublished decision released June 5, 2009, the Appellate Division balanced the SCPA’s interest in compiling a list of all dog owners in Absecon (Atlantic County) New Jersey against the dog owners’ interests in keeping information they provided to the city confidential.
Following the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burnett v. Bergen County, the court held that, under OPRA, the competing interests needed to be balanced according to the seven-prong test established by the Supreme Court in Doe v. Poritz.
Applying that test, the Appellate Division reversed the trial court after finding that “the twin aims of public access and protection of personal information favor disclosure of the names and addresses of individuals possessing dog licenses issued by the City.”
Having found that the Plaintiff was entitled to the records under OPRA, the court declined to reach the common law and state civil rights act claims. The matter was remanded to the trial court to determine the plaintiff’s entitlement to attorney fees.
The decision is on-line at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a3047-07.pdf
The prevailing attorney was Donald M. Doherty, Jr. and the Absecon was represented by Michael J. Blee.
Somerset, New Jersey