People seeking records under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act do not need to use official request forms, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled May 21.
OPRA requires agencies to prepare and provide forms for making requests, but it also says that a request need only be made in writing. The appellate court decided that while requesters should use the forms, no request should be denied simply because the form was not used.
The case arose when requester Tina Renna was told her e-mailed inquiry about a record from Union County would not be processed without the official request form. The county was relying on a 2006 advisory opinion from the Government Records Council (GRC), which declared OPRA required that requests be made on official forms.
While requiring forms might lead to greater "uniformity of request and response," the court said, that benefit is outweighed by "the right of citizens to have open and virtually unfettered access to government records."