Libertarians for Transparent Government v. Cumberland County

In this OPRA case, Libertarians for Transparent Government had requested a settlement agreement between the Cumberland County Jail and its former corrections officer after that officer was investigated for sexual assault of a person confined at the county jail, then permitted to retire in good standing with a pension after disciplinary charges were eventually dismissed. Cumberland County withheld the settlement agreement, instead providing an inaccurate summary of the public information. When Plaintiffs sued to obtain the agreement, the trial court ruled that the settlement agreements may be disclosed in redacted form to protect personnel information. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that settlement agreements fell within OPRA's personnel records exemption and must be wholly withheld.

The ACLU-NJ's brief focused on how public access to such settlement agreements can increase accountability in New Jersey's prisons, highlighting the most recent abuse and neglect at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility and Cumberland County Jail and the public's desire to know how prisons are holding their staff accountable for such abuse. The brief argued that the approach of releasing the agreement, with targeted redactions to protect sensitive personnel information, struck an appropriate balance between privacy rights of employees and the public's statutory right to public information.

Status

On September 14, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral argument; the case is pending a decision.

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