Reporters Committee attorneys filed an amicus brief in a New Jersey Open Public Records Act case pending before the New Jersey Supreme Court. The case arises out of a dispute about the scope of N.J.S.A. 47:1A-10, a provision of OPRA that states that while personnel records are generally exempt from disclosure, a public employee’s name, title, “date of separation and the reason therefor” are public records subject to disclosure under the statute.
Plaintiff-Petitioner Libertarians for Transparent Government filed an OPRA request with the New Jersey State Police for the name, title, “date of separation and the reason therefor” for a state trooper who had been terminated from employment for having “questionable associations” and engaging in “racially offensive behavior.” The State Police denied the request. Both the trial and appellate courts have upheld the agency’s denial in disregard of OPRA’s explicit statutory language.
The Reporters Committee’s brief focuses on two main issues: the plain language of N.J.S.A. 47:1A-10 and the importance of prioritizing plain language in statutory construction; and the need for members of the news media to have access to the requested records in order to report on matters of significant public concern, such as patterns of police misconduct.