Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, a Washington, D.C., public interest organization, submitted an OPRA request to the Atlantic City Board of Education seeking documents that reflect school-level enrollment and disciplinary data by ethnic/racial subgroup as collected for the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights Data Collection Survey, along with other information. The records custodian denied the request on three separate grounds, among them the claim that “OPRA requires requestors be citizens of NJ.” OPRA has never been interpreted as requiring requestors be citizens of New Jersey. Only OPRA’s findings and declarations statement mentions “citizens of this state.” The implementing provisions of the statute provide the right to request documents to “any person.” Thus, Lawyers Committees’ out-of-state mailing address should not have impacted the request.
The ACLU-NJ filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lawyers Committee, and the lower court held that persons or groups that are not “citizens of this state” are not entitled to access records pursuant to OPRA. The ACLU-NJ filed a Notice of Appeal on March 18, 2016 and the appeal is pending.