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Old 06-13-2012, 08:18 PM
prattjus prattjus is offline
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Docket information on 260,000 New Jersey civil court filings now on-line

The New Jersey court system allows thepublic to search for civil cases, but only if either the docket number or aparty’s name is known. For example, if Ialready know that Kelly Morgan filed a “whistleblower” (i.e. a ConscientiousEmployee Protection Act (CEPA)?) caseagainst the Pleasantville Board of Education, I can go the state courts’ web site, searchon Morgan’s name and learn that the case’s docket number is ATL-L-006652-10 andother information about the case. (Forinstructions on how to use thison-line search feature, see my blog entry here.)


But what if I didn’t know a party’s nameor docket number? Suppose, instead, thatI wanted a list of all the “whistleblower” cases filed in a given county duringa given year? This type of informationis not available from the court system unless someone pays the State hundredsof dollars in programming fees to have a custom report prepared.


Fortunately, New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG),as a public service, recently paid the court system $710 to obtain two customreports containing docket information on civil cases filed from January 1, 2002to May 14, 2012. After obtaining theseelectronic records, we combined them, removed the duplicates and converted theminto a fixed-width text file that contains basic docket information on over260,000 Superior Court Law Division Civil cases. That text file can be downloaded for free here. (Downloadthe small “README.TXT” file first to understand what other files to download.)


By using basic text editing and sortingsoftware (I use EditPlus and CMSort)you can learn things like the number of whistleblower cases filed in AtlanticCounty in 2011 (there were 24 of them) and see that the cities of Atlantic Cityand Pleasantville and the Township of Galloway were named as defendants in someof them. To learn more about anyspecific case, you can search the docket number on the State’s site. For example, you’ll learn that KoltourisKonstadinos’ whistleblower case against Galloway (Docket ATL-L-002795-11)settled in mediation on April 3, 2012.


While this information is very useful,it is not complete. Unfortunately, the court system periodically “archives”some of its cases, and when a case is archived, it is removed from the reportsthat we paid $710 for. In order to getdata from the archived cases, we would need to purchase a “PAC0502” report foran additional $1,325. The PAC0502report, while prohibitively expensive, would also be difficult to manipulateinto useable data. According to a March14, 2012 e-mail from Elisabeth Ann Strom, Esq., Chief of the Superior CourtClerk’s Office (Voice: 609-292-5293 - e-mail):


The [PAC0502] reportis not available for paper copies due to its immense size (one year’s worthcould be at least one million pages), nor can this report be sorted by date range or docket order. This report is sorted by archive date. Also, this report contains all differenttypes of docket cases intermingled together. In addition, because this database is for archived cases, it couldcontain multiple copies of the same case if it had been reopened, closed andarchived again within the same year. Ihave been also informed that this report is only an electronic docket,containing only enough data in the archive database to re-establish a case ifnecessary. It does not contain theentire caseload of information for each case.


So, in sum, the file that we’ve providedis a nearly complete listing for recent cases (e.g. only 59 of the 93,759 casesfiled in 2011 have been archived) but as the cases get older, there is agreater chance of them being archived and not available in the file we’veprovided.


In conclusion, we hope that thisinformation will help journalists and the general public to better identify andtrack court cases that are of interest. We also believe that NJFOG’s experience in gathering this informationillustrates how antiquated, expensive and user-unfriendly New Jersey’s civilcase database is. Compare New Jersey’ssystem to the federal court’s Pacer system.While it has its flaws, the Pacer system allows account holders to search courtrecords in a variety of ways and to actually download PDF versions of courtfilings (for a modest cost per page).







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Old 06-15-2012, 01:40 PM
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Re: Docket information on 260,000 New Jersey civil court filings now on-line

Zip file is attached in case the link becomes unavailable.
Attached Files
File Type: zip NJCIVIL.zip (18.82 MB, 57 views)
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