Chris Christie doubles down on OPRA rejections with “anonymous requester” loophole

“It’s clear to me that they are adamant about not turning over anything,”

Written by Beryl Lipton
Edited by JPat Brown

The battle for access to New Jersey’s Open Public Record Act (OPRA) logs carries on, even after last month’s Superior Court ruling. In Scheeler vs. Office of the Governor, the Court determined that records requested non-anonymously by Cape May County resident Harry Scheeler are not exempt from disclosure and must be released by August 15. Records he requested anonymously, the Court decided, may be withheld due to a provision in OPRA which protects the requests of victims from release to convicted felons. Both the stay motion and Scheeler’s motion to reconsider release of his anonymous requests will be argued on September 10.  

According to the State, anonymous requests should be entirely withheld because it has no way of knowing whether it is violating section C.47:1A-2.2, which limits felons access to certain information. It is not clear why all anonymous requesters and the contents of their requests should be considered as being barred from release because of an assumption the requests were from felons. The State’s records request form includes a field to indicate such a status. Scheeler indicated that he was not a felon on his anonymous requests.  

“It’s clear to me that they are adamant about not turning over anything,” says Bruce S. Rosen, the attorney representing Harry Scheeler on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.  

The State has announced its intention to appeal and is seeking the stay to extend through the appeal process. MuckRock sent follow ups to every New Jersey state agency after the July 21 judgment, requesting that the OPRA logs be released in accordance with the new court ruling. Though a few agencies responded to inform us that a motion to stay had been filed, the Office of the Governor itself has simply requested extensions of time to respond to the request, without any indication that they have initiated a judicial pause, as they have.

While we wait, feel free to reach out to info@muckrock.com with related comments or issues from your state. Or file your own request!


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