Monday, July 9, 2012

State Law School Clinic's Documents Exempt Under Open Records Law

English: The Coat of Arms of Rutgers University(Photo credit: Wikipedia)In a 32-page opinion written by New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, the Garden State's High Court ruled that records from the Rutgers (University) Environmental Legal Clinic ("RELC") were not subject to being produced under the Open Public Records Act ("OPRA") [N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1].

In Sussex Commons Associates, LLC v. Rutgers (A-97-10; 067232), the Court held that notwithstanding that Rutgers University is a public institution, its law school clinics are not involved in governmental functions and therefore, OPRA is inapplicable. Outlet mall developer Sussex Commons sued for access to the law clinic's records to determine whether a competing entity was impeding Sussex Commons's efforts to secure mall tenants.

According to an Associated Press account,  since 2004, RELC has provided pro bono representation to two groups opposed to building a mall in Sussex County. OPRA requires that "government records shall be readily accessible...with certain exceptions, for the protection of the public interest."
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