Open Public Records Act
The Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1a-1 et seq., commonly referred to as OPRA, provides procedures for the public to review or receive copies of certain government records. OPRA applies to requests for actual records, not requests for information or isolated facts. The law was enacted to make identifiable government records readily accessible for inspection, copying or examination.
To access or obtain government records, a written request must be submitted to the records custodian on the Request for Public Records Form of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. The request form must be completely filled out and signed by the requestor. It must identify the specific record or records desired to enable the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office staff to locate the record and reply to the request in a timely manner. In some cases, the record or records requested may not be provided because they are not public records as provided by law. The completed request form must be sent to:
Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office
209 South Broad Street
P.O. Box 8068
Trenton, NJ 08650-0068
Attn: OPRA Custodian of Records
If the custodian is unable to comply with the request, the reasons will be listed in the appropriate section on the form, signed and dated and returned to the party requesting the information. Any part of the requested information which is exempt from public access will be deleted or excised before a copy of the record is provided.
Records will be provided within seven (7) working days of the request unless otherwise advised. If a request cannot be met within that time period, the party requesting the information will be notified within the same seven (7) working days of when the records will be available. If the requested record is not provided after seven days or on the date otherwise specified, it will be deemed to be denied, unless the party requesting the information has elected not to provide a name, address or telephone number or other means of contacting the party requesting the information.
If the request is anonymous then the custodian shall not be required to respond until the party requesting the information reappears before the custodian seeking a response to the original request. If access is denied, a brief explanation will be provided on the form and returned to the party requesting the information.
Fees: All fees must be paid in full before release of records. Checks should be made payable to the County of Mercer. In accordance with subsection 5 of P.L.2010, c.75 (C.47:1A-5), the copy for a duplication of a government record embodied in the form of printed matter will be subject to the following fee schedule:
- Letter-Sized Pages (8″ x 11″) $0.05 per page
- Legal-Sized Pages (11.5″ x 14″) $0.07 per page
- OR the actual cost for duplication where such cost exceeds the foregoing rates.
Fees for different media will be assessed on a case-by-case basis in accordance with subsection 5 of P.L.2010, c.75. (C.47:1A-5). A deposit of $10.00 may be required of any person who makes an anonymous request for records. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(f). This fee will be automatically credited toward any cost incurred. This office reserves the right to require that all fees must be paid in full before release of requested records. If the cost of producing the records is over $25.00 a deposit may be required before beginning reproduction. All checks payable to the County of Mercer.
Procedure For Filing An Appeal
A person who is denied access to a government record by the custodian of the record, at the option of the party requesting the information, may:
- institute a proceeding to challenge the custodian’s decision by filing an action in Mercer County Superior Court which shall be heard by a Superior Court judge who has been designated to hear such cases because of that judge’s knowledge and expertise in matters relating to access to government records;
- or in lieu of filing an action in Superior Court, file a complaint with the Government Records Council established in subsection 8 of P.L.2001, c.404 (C.47:1A-7).
The right to institute any action under this section shall be solely that of the party requesting the information. Any such action shall proceed in a summary or expedited manner. The public agency shall have the burden of proving the denial of access is authorized by law. If it is determined that access has been improperly denied, the court or GRC shall order that access be allowed. The party requesting the information who prevails in any proceeding shall be entitled to a reasonable attorney’s fee.
A Right to Discovery is Separate and Distinct from a Right to Access Public Records
OPRA is a public disclosure statute and is not intended to replace or supplement the discovery of private litigants. Constanting v. Township of Bass River, 406 N.J. Super. 305, 324-25 (App. Div. 2009), certif. denied, 200 N.J. 208 (2009); MAG Entertainment, LLLC v. Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, 375 N.J. Super. 534, 545-46 (App. Div. 2005). Requests for discovery of materials that are not public government documents should be made in accordance with the applicable Court Rules.
Additional information concerning the Open Public Records Act may be found at www.state.nj.us/grc.