New Jersey public agencies are subject to the Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1, commonly referred to as “OPRA.” When requesters are denied access to records under OPRA, they may challenge the denial in court, and if they prevail, they are entitled to attorney’s fees.
OPRA generally requires public agencies to produce “government records” that are responsive to records requests unless they fall under an applicable OPRA exception. See, e.g. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1.
Once an OPRA request is filed, the public agency’s OPRA custodian has seven (7) business days to respond to the OPRA request. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(i). If an OPRA custodian does not respond within that timeframe, the OPRA request is deemed denied. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(i).
Any person that is denied access to a government record may file a challenge in either Superior Court or before the Government Records Council. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-6. Importantly, a party that prevails in OPRA litigation is entitled to an award of reasonable attorney’s fees. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-6. This provision was intended to allow OPRA requesters to obtain representation if they are denied records.
While many attorneys specialize in challenging OPRA denials, not all attorneys have also provided counsel to public agencies and assisted them complying with OPRA. Our firm features attorneys that provide representation to various New Jersey public bodies, so they have experience working with records custodians to ensure proper responses to OPRA requests, and understand when a response is unlawful.
If you are seeking representation relating to an OPRA request that you are making or denial that you have received, please call King, Moench & Collins. Michael L. Collins, Esq. is a municipal attorney that also provides representation to private clients interacting with government agencies. Mr. Collins may be reached at 732-546-3670 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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