When responding to a request under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA), municipalities frequently seek to redact information that should not be disclosed. However, in order to avoid an improper denial of access complaint, it is important make sure that all OPRA redactions are not only performed properly but also adequately documented.
Making OPRA Redactions
- Redacting text. When seeking to redact a word, sentence, or paragraph, the Government Records Council advises custodians to make a paper copy of the original record, manually “black out” the information on the copy with a dark colored marker, and then provide a copy of the blacked-out record to the requester. As the GRC explains, “The blacked out area shows where information was redacted, while the double copying ensures that the requester will not be able to ‘see-through’ to the original, non-accessible text.”
- Redacting full pages. When record custodians need to redact full pages, it is important to indicate to the requester that a particular page of that record is being redacted. The GRC recommends inserting a blank sheet bearing the word “Page redacted” or a written list of the specific page numbers being withheld.
- Redacting electronic documents. Redacting an electronic document should be accomplished by deleting the non-disclosed material. As highlighted by the GRC, techniques such as “hiding” text or changing its color so it is invisible should not be used as sophisticated users can detect the changes.
Justifying OPRA Redactions
As we have previously discussed on this New Jersey Government & Law Blog, it is also important that the custodian have a legal justification for each redaction. If the redactions are challenged, the custodian will be required to provide a legal justification for each redaction.
For more information about OPRA redactions, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Public Law Group.