Saturday, July 26, 2008

N.J. high court clarifies proper course for open-records suits

Trenton, N. J. - People who feel they were wrongly denied documents they requested under New Jersey's Open Public Records Act must act quickly if they want to use the courts to force governments to release them, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
In a unanimous ruling, the state's high court affirmed the law's 45-day window for people to sue when a government or agency refuses to turn over documents. The court also said governments that turn over public documents because of such lawsuits must pay all legal fees.

"Citizens are entitled to swift access to public records, and both the public and governmental bodies are logically entitled to have any disputes brought and addressed in the same, rapid manner," wrote Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.

The law allows governments to take up to seven days to either release documents or deny a request for them. It gives 45 days for people to sue after their requests are denied. Yesterday's decision said that is enough time for people to launch legal challenges, and provides certainty for governments.

For more on this story, go to The Newark Star-Ledger

Photo: The New Jersey Supreme Court. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, who wrote the Court's opinion in a recent decision on how open-records lawsuits should proceed, is seated on the front row in the center.

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