For Immediate Release
October 20, 2010
NEWARK — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey applauded the New Jersey Supreme Court this week for lowering the cost of court records to make it consistent with the new rates imposed under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). The ACLU-NJ wrote to the Supreme Court (143k PDF) last month seeking to confirm that it would lower its copying costs to correspond to the OPRA standard, as has been its practice.
Last month, Governor Christie signed into law a bill significantly reducing the rates for paper copies of public records accessed through OPRA to five cents per page for letter-size copies and seven cents per page for legal-size copies. The lowering of copy costs was long-sought by open government advocates, including the ACLU-NJ and New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJ FOG), whose members encountered exhorbitant fees for copies as a barrier to transparency.
"The Supreme Court's changes to its fee schedule not only provide consistency in fees for public records in the State, but also enable greater access to court records and information," said Bobby Conner, staff attorney for the ACLU-NJ Open Governance Project.
The court's previous fee schedule for records - 75 cents per page for the first 10 pages, 50 cents per page for the next 10 pages, and 25 cents per page for additional pages - corresponded to the now-obsolete fees articulated in OPRA prior to the passage of the recent amendments.
The ACLU has long recognized that an open and transparent government is a founding value of American democracy. The ACLU-NJ's Open Governance Project, the only full-time public interest legal program in the state dedicated solely to open governance matters, works closely with the New Jersey Legislature and county and local government agencies to promote greater access to public meetings and records.
"The new rates correspond to the actual costs of providing the court records," Conner added. "The Court has clearly sent a message that public access to government is a right, not a privilege to those who can afford it."