Update: On May 16, 2018, the Superior Court, Appellate Division ruled, in a published and thus precedential opinion, that non-residents of New Jersey have the same rights under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) as New Jersey residents. The opinion is on-line here.
On March 31, 2017, Bergen County Assignment Judge Bonnie J. Mizdol rejected Paramus Borough’s argument that a Somerset County-based Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requestor had to supply his home address to prove that he was a citizen of New Jersey.
According to CJ Griffin, who represented records requestor Jeff Carter, Mizdol held that anyone–not just New Jersey citizens–can use OPRA to obtain government records. Mizdol’s broad ruling rendered moot the question of whether a requestor needs to prove his or her citizenship. Mizdol is the fifth judge to rule on the citizenship issue.
According to briefs filed in the matter, Carter sought legal invoices from the Borough. After narrowing his request in response to the Borough’s claim that it was “overly broad,” the Borough’s attorney, Paul Kaufman of Kaufman Semeraro Liebman LLP, demanded that Carter provide his home address in order to prove that he was a New Jersey resident. Griffin wrote that Paramus’ demand “is a frustrating example of an agency placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of gaining access to very basic government records” and that if Paramus’ position was accepted, “citizens of Bergen County can expect that they will have to jump through hoops and give up their right to privacy in order to gain access to government records.”
According to Griffin, Justin Santagata, also of the Kaufman Semeraro Liebman, indicated that Paramus would appeal Mizdol’s ruling.