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November 16, 2012

Re:   Appellate Division Release Decision Regarding Attorney’s Fees Under the Common Law Right of Access to Public Records

Dear Mayor:

Yesterday, November 15, the Appellate Division released its decision in Paff v. Garwood.  This case stems from a records request made by Paff, under both the Open Public Records Act and the common law right to know, for certain videos related to improper actions by a Garwood police officer.

The trial court found that while the videos were exempt from release under the Open Public Records Act, they should be released under the common law right to know.  The trial court also granted counsel fees to the plaintiff, despite the fact that counsel fees are only permissible under the OPRA statute and not the common law, and the plaintiff failed in his OPRA claim.

Garwood appealed.  While the Appellate Division upheld the release of the videos under the common law, it overturned any award of attorney’s fees.

The court stated: “While N.J.S.A. 47:1A-6 expressly permits an award of counsel fees under OPRA, there is no statutory authority for such an award to a prevailing party in a common law right of access to public records lawsuit.”

We will continue to monitor any further developments in this case and keep you apprised of any updates.  You can read the decision here http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a2013-10.pdf

If you have any questions or need additional information please contact Matt Weng at 609-695-3481 ext. 137 or mweng@njslom.org.

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director

 

 

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