New Jersey

C. Pretrial motions and records

Overview

New Jersey

New Jersey recognizes a right of access to pretrial materials such as motions and briefs. This presumption may be overcome by a party’s showing of a need for secrecy. See Hammock v. Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc., 622 A.2d 546 (N.J. 1995). 

D. Warrants, wiretaps and related materials

Overview

New Jersey

New Jersey does not recognize a right of access to affidavits and other materials submitted with search warrants while an investigation is ongoing. See United States v. Sealed Search Warrants, 28 Media L. Rep. 1151 (D. N.J. 1999). 

B. Arrest records

Overview

New Jersey

The common law right of access extends to police incident reports and witnesses’ statements to police. See Asbury Park Press Inc. v. Seaside Heights, 586 A.2d 870 (N.J. Super. Ct. 1991). 

FOREWORD

Open Records. On January 8, 2002, Acting Governor, Donald DiFrancesco, signed into Law a new Open Public Records Act ("OPRA").

The new statute makes significant improvements to the prior Right to Know Law:

 •  The law provides a succinct definition of "public record" which will assist custodians in providing access while at the same time excluding from the definition records not kept by a public officer in the course of his/her official business.

 •  The law provides a uniform system for requesting records and responding to requests as well as a time from within which the custodian must respond to the request — a significant omission in the prior Right to Know Law.

 •  The law preserves the existing court review of access disputes and provides a less expensive alternative administrative review, at the requester's option through the Government Records Council.

a. General or specific?

OPRA declares that all government records be subject to public access unless exempt from such access by: (i) OPRA, (ii) any other statute, (iii) resolution of either or both houses of the Legislature, (iv) regulation promulgated under the authority of any statute or Executive Order of the Governor; (v) Executive Order of the Governor; (vi) Rules of Court; (vii) any federal law; (viii) federal regulation; or (ix) court order. (See N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1).

Specifically OPRA also exempts the following from the definition of "government record":

 •  Inter-agency or intra-agency advisory; consultative, or deliberative material. (See definition of "Government record," N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1)

 •  Information received by a member of the State Senate or Assembly from or regarding a constituent. (See definition of "Government record," N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1).

North Jersey Media Group v. Bergen County Prosecutor's Office

July 21, 2014

A FOIA request concerning a criminal investigation of a priest over a sexual abuse allegation was denied by prosecutors who said they would not disclose whether an investigation was going on. We filed an amicus brief joined by 25 other news organizations. We argued that a "neither confirm nor deny" response is not appropriate for state government records requests, as it was developed at the federal level to protect national security interests and has since morphed into a broad and damaging secrecy tool.

New Jersey blogger considered a journalist under state Shield Law

Lilly Chapa | Reporter's Privilege | News | April 16, 2013
News
April 16, 2013

A New Jersey blogger qualifies for protection under the state’s shield law and does not have to reveal the names of government officials she accused of wrongdoing, a judge ruled.

N.J. judge orders local blogger to defend journalist status

Lilly Chapa | Reporter's Privilege | News | February 4, 2013
News
February 4, 2013

A New Jersey Superior Court judge recently ordered a blogger to defend her status as a journalist and explain why the state's shield law applies to her in order to avoid revealing the names of government officials she accused of wrongdoing.

New Jersey appeals court reinstates filmmaker's civil rights suit against Trenton police

Jack Komperda | Newsgathering | News | September 24, 2012
News
September 24, 2012

A New Jersey state appeals court has reinstated a civil right lawsuit filed by a documentary filmmaker who claimed that a member of the Trenton Police Department harassed him while he was filming a project on street gangs.

A three-judge panel of the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division concluded in an opinion released last Friday that Kelly Ramos had both a First Amendment and state constitutional right to videotape gang activities as well as interactions between gang members and police officers.

New Jersey

Date: 
August 1, 2012

Summary of statute(s): An individual who is a party to either an in-person conversation or electronic communication, or who has the consent of one of the parties to the communication, can lawfully record it or disclose its contents, unless the person is doing so for the purpose of committing a criminal or tortious act. A person also can lawfully record electronic communications that are readily accessible to the general public. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:156A-4 (West 2012).