New Jersey

Scheeler v. ACJIF

September 9, 2016

Various New Jersey governmental entities argued that citizens of states other than New Jersey should not be allowed to use the Open Public Records Act. The Reporters Committee and a coalition of 18 newsmedia organizations argued that (1) members of the news media play a crucial role in keeping the public informed that is unrelated to the citizenship or geographic location of the journalists involved, and (2) that journalists and news organizations located outside of New Jersey have used OPRA to report on matters of immense importance for both citizens of that state and the country as a whole

A. Authorization

Overview

New Jersey

Media audiovisual coverage of a criminal trial is not inherently a violation of the defendant’s due process rights or right to fair trial. See State v. Newsome, 177 N.J. Super. 221, 426 A.2d 68 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1981).

F. Privacy

Overview

New Jersey

Strong privacy interests may constitute “good cause” to overcome the presumption of openness. For example, one court sealed the plaintiff’s medical exhibits as presented by the defendant, recognizing the plaintiff had a right to privacy in his medical information and there were no alternatives to sealing to protect this privacy right. See Locascio v. Balicki, 2011 WL 2490832 (D.N.J. June 22, 2011). 

C. Other proceedings involving minors

Overview

New Jersey

Though New Jersey permits closure, if recognizes that closure should be used rarely and only when necessary. The presumption of openness remains. See State v. Allen, 73 N.J. 132, 373 A.2d 377 (N.J. 1977).

Hearings to determine whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult is presumed open unless the defendant can prove specific harm from openness. See In Re P.P., 23 Media L. Rep. 2178 (N.J. Super. Ct. 1995).

F. Interviewing petit jurors and grand jurors

Overview

New Jersey

New Jersey courts may prohibit the press from interviewing jurors until the conclusion of the trial (and even retrial) in order to protect the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights. See State v. Neulander, 801 A.2d 255 (N.J. S. Ct. 2002). 

B. Anonymous juries

Overview

New Jersey

New Jersey recognizes that the First Amendment right of access extends to the identities of jurors. See State v. Neulander, 668 N.W.2d 667 (N.J. 2002); U.S. v. Antar, 839 F. Supp. 293 (D. N.J. 1993). 

A. Access to voir dire

Overview

New Jersey

New Jersey has recognized that the voir dire transcript must be disclosed to press after prosecution has concluded, though there may be some narrowly tailored redactions to protect privacy and the deliberative process. See U.S. v. Antar, 839 F. Supp. 293 (D. N.J. 1993). 

H. Post-trial records

Overview

New Jersey

There is no right of access to probation reports, even if they may be relevant to a defendant’s alleged criminal activity while on bail. See In re Boganski, 22 Media L. Rep. 1474 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1994). 

G. Settlement records

Overview

New Jersey

Settlement agreements as part of the judicial record are presumed open under the common law right of access. See Verni ex rel. Burstein v. Lanzaro, 960 A.2d 405 (N.J. App. Div. Dec. 3, 2008); Jackson v. Delaware River and Bay Auth., 224 F. Supp. 2d 824 (D.N.J. 2002); Press of Atlantic City v. Ocean County Joint Ins. Fund, 767 A.2d 533 (N.J. Super. Ct. 2001); but see Short v. Western Elec., 566 F. Supp. 932, 8 Media L. Rep. 2174 (D.N.J. 1982). 

E. Discovery materials and motions

Overview

New Jersey

Discovery materials are presumed open and may only be held as confidential upon a showing of “good cause.” See Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 106 F.R.D. 573 (D. N.J. 1985), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1043 (1987).