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OPRA NJ Open Public Records Act

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Old 12-01-2017, 04:39 PM
prattjus prattjus is offline
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3,974 lines of OAL open case data are now on-line in an Excel file.

On July 31, 2017, I reported that the Office of Administrative Law (OAL), in response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, disclosed an Excel file containing docket information on about 350 cases. As I noted in my article, government agencies, in accordance with the Supreme Court's June 20, 2017 ruling in Paff v. Galloway, are now obliged to extract information from government databases in response to OPRA requests.

After writing my article, the OAL released an expanded list that contains docket information on all of its cases that were active on August 1, 2017. The list, set forth in an Excel file which I've placed on-line here, contains 3,974 lines of data. Since some are duplicates, this may represent about 2,000 separate cases.

To my knowledge, apart from the Excel file at the above link, the OAL has provided no method for members of the public to access its case docket. Accordingly, cases are filed and adjudicated without anyone other than the parties and their lawyers knowing that these cases exist.

Some of the cases are of significant public interest, such as the State Board of Examiners cases. These cases, represented by the code EDE in Column D, list the names of school teachers and administrators some of whom are contesting the suspension of their certificates. (Note: Column "D" of the table contains a three-character code that identifies the agency where the case originated. A table that lists each the three-character codes and its corresponding agency is on-line here.) Some of those matters have public hearings scheduled that will take place during the next several weeks. For example, someone named David C. Raffo is listed to appear before Administrative Law Judge John Scollo in Newark on January 10th and 11th of 2018. A Google search on Raffo's name shows that the Board of Examiners issued an Order to Show cause to him at its March 3, 2017 meeting to determine "why his certificate(s) should not be revoked based on the level and nature of the conduct."

While the database and Internet searches do not reveal the nature of Raffo's alleged underlying conduct, an interested member of the public or media could submit an OPRA request for the case documents and perhaps glean an understanding of the issues and attend the hearing to observe the proceedings. While in a perfect system all of public case information would be on-line, this Excel table at least provides members of the public and press with a roadmap that they can follow to obtain that information.





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