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NJ Open Government Notes

Unpublished trial court OPRA opinion.

Unpublished opinions” are not published in the law books and are not ordinarily written about in legal periodicals. Unless somebody puts them on-line and calls attention to them, they are likely not to be located by people who may want to search for them. I think that it’s important that court opinions, even if they are not precedential, are easily accessible for future use.

Charles R. Cohen v. City of Englewood et al, Docket No. BER-L-7144-17
Hon. Bonnie J. Mizdol, A.J.S.C.
December 21, 2017
Click here for the court’s decision.

Summary:  The most intriguing part of Judge Mizdol’s opinion is her remarks about time sheets prepared by an engineering firm that was under contract with Englewood.  Even though the City did not have the time sheets in its possession, Mizdol suggested that she would have required the City to retrieve them for the OPRA requestor because those time sheets “should have been on file with, or accessible to city officials because such access allows the governing body to ‘perform the oversight function expected . . .'”  The internal quote was taken from the Supreme Court’s holding in Verry v. Franklin Fire District No 1, 230 N.J. 285, 303 (2017).  Judge Mizdol didn’t require Englewood to produce the time sheets in this instance because the OPRA request was “unartfully drafted” and did not specifically ask for them.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project