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Deborah Jacobs v. Peter Harvey, et al.

On August 31, 2006, the Superior Court in Mercer County found that former NJ Attorney General Peter Harvey inappropriately withheld documents about "potential threat elements" (PTEs) that the ACLU-NJ had requested under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). In 2004, after learning that municipalities had to list national security "potential threat elements" in their applications for certain homeland security grants, the ACLU-NJ sent OPRA requests to a number of NJ cities seeking information about their "potential threat element" designations. Some towns refused to disclose even the criteria they use to decide who constitutes a terrorist threat under the law, and some towns claimed they were directed by the Attorney General's office not to disclose such documents. The ACLU-NJ, in 2004, therefore sued Attorney General Harvey. Harvey provided the court a letter stating that his office did not have any of the records requested by the ACLU-NJ and had not directed towns to deny our record request, prompting the ACLU-NJ to renew our request to the towns themselves. Harvey's claims turned out to be false, as in the course of our renewed request, the ACLU-NJ obtained a copy of a 2004 attorney general memo that in fact directed towns not to release information to us. The ACLU-NJ therefore re-instituted its case against the Attorney General's office and the court awarded us the attorneys fees that it took to do so.

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