The Government Records Council is tasked with reviewing and adjudicating complaints concerning a denial of access to a government record by a records custodian under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act. It receives an average of 281 complaints each year.
In its May issue of OPRA Alert, the GRC acknowledged that it has a backlog of cases. In fact, 51 percent are awaiting adjudication. To help ensure complaints proceed in a timely manner, the GRC highlighted that parties must comply with OPRA’s specific timeframes for filing GRC submissions. “A party’s failure to adhere to the established timeframes may result in the complaint being adjudicated based solely on the submissions of the opposing party” the GRC warns.
Below is a brief summary of some of the most important deadlines, as detailed by the GRC:
Complaint submissions: Denial of Access Complaints must be submitted to the GRC on a Denial of Access Form, available for download from the GRC’s website. A complainant may amend his or her complaint as a matter of right within 30 business days after the filing of the initial complaint.
Mediation: Upon receipt of a complaint, the Council shall offer the services of a mediator without charge to the parties. A party who fails to respond to an offer of mediation within 5 business days from the date of its receipt is deemed to have rejected the offer to mediate the complaint.
Custodian submissions: Custodians shall submit a completed and signed Statement of Information for each complaint to the Council’s staff and the complainant not later than 5 business days from the date of receipt of the Statement of Information form. If a complainant amends his or her complaint, the custodian shall have 5 business days from the date of receipt of same to submit his or her position regarding the complaint amendment with the Council.
Requests for reconsideration: Requests for reconsideration must be filed within 10 business days following receipt of a Council’s decision. Parties must file any objection to the request for reconsideration within 10 business days following receipt of the request.
Appeal: A final decision of the Council may be appealed to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court within 45 days from the date the decision is issued to the parties.
Stay of Council’s decision: Requests for a stay of the effective date of a Council’s Interim Order must be made prior to the last day by which action was to have been taken in accordance with the Council’s decision. Parties must file any objection to the request for a stay within 10 business days following receipt of the request.
For more information about the GRC complaint process or OPRA, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Public Law Group.