As part of furthering the ACLU of New Jersey’s criminal justice and transparency priorities, on November 4, 2019, we filed suit against the County Prosecutors’ Association of New Jersey (CPANJ) to challenge their denial of access to records under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law. We know from advocacy and litigation experience that CPANJ is an important player in criminal justice policy making across the state; accordingly, the ACLU-NJ seeks to map exactly what that power is and how county prosecutors wield it. To that end, we requested records of CPANJ’s meeting minutes, agendas, and filed amicus briefs, but were denied on the basis that CPANJ is not a public agency.
In response to this denial, the ACLU-NJ alleges that, while incorporated as 501(c)(3), CPANJ operates as a public agency subject to OPRA, as set forth in Fair Share Housing Center v. League of Municipalities and its progeny, a line of cases establishing that similarly established nonprofits are operating as public agencies. In support of these allegations, the ACLU-NJ argues that CPANJ is made up solely of county prosecutors who are appointees of the Governor and paid by the state, and that its purpose--maintaining close cooperation between the Attorney General and county prosecutors--is inextricably linked to public functions even as it uses government resources for its work, including county prosecutor time for meetings, drafting amicus briefs, and holding meetings at the Attorney General's office.