In a published decision released on February 11, 2010, the Appellate Division held that the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) does not allow record custodians to charge more than their actual copying costs. Recognizing that OPRA’s language on the issue of copy costs was confusing, the court ruled that custodians must start charging their “actual costs” effective July 1, 2010 and that a) if the costs, as determined by the custodian, are not more than OPRA’s 75c/50c/25c per page schedule, the burden will be on the requestor to prove that the costs are too high and b) if the determined costs are more than the 75c/50c/25c schedule, the burden will be on the government agency to prove that the costs assessed reflect its actual costs.

The court stated that its decision was the best it could do in harmonizing OPRA’s confusing and contradictory language. It invited the legislature to amend the statute prior to July 1st if it actually intended a different result.

The decision is on-line here.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]