In a October 26, 2012 decision, Hunterdon County Superior Court Judge Peter A. Buchsbaum voided the findings and resolutions the Hunterdon County Agriculture Development Board made at its August 9, 2012 meeting.  Buchsbaum faulted the Board’s meeting notice which did not: a) inform the public “whether formal action may or may not be taken” and b) did not include the agenda of the meeting “to the extent known.” Both of these requirements are set forth in N.J.S.A. 10:4-8(d).  In ruling on the agenda, Buchsbaum found that the Board’s “agenda is not merely deficient -— it is nonexistent.”  The opinion in this case, Bailey v. Hunterdon County Agriculture Development Bd., 2012 WL 5830158, Docket No. HNT-L-354-12, is on-line here

Unfortunately, Buchsbaum did not award the pro se plaintiff, Marie Bailey, her costs resulting in her being reimbursed the $250 or so that she paid in filing fees to bring this action.  In so ruling, Buchsbaum held that “[u]nlike the Open Public Records Act, OPMA provides no provision for attorney’s fees. Compare N.J.S.A. 47:1A-6. Plaintiff cites to no rule which provides any basis for said reimbursement.”  With all due respect, I believe that the judge erred.  I have been awarded costs in many of my pro se OPMA lawsuits under the authority of Gallo v. Salesian Soc., Inc., 290 N.J. Super. 616, 660 (App. Div. 1996) in which the Appellate Division stated:

R 4:42-8(a) provides: “Unless otherwise provided by law, these rules or court order, costs shall be allowed as of course to the prevailing party.” The judge here expressly found that plaintiff was a prevailing party.  He should have awarded her costs “as of course” under the rule.

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