Simmons v. Mercado

In this appeal, the New Jersey Supreme Court considered whether a records request for complaint-summonses from a municipal police department was proper under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 to -13. The key question was whether the complaint-summonses — electronic records populated with information by local police officers but stored on Judiciary servers — were the police department’s government records under OPRA and, if so, whether the records request was sufficiently narrow. Plaintiffs submitted a request under OPRA to Defendants (collectively, MPD) for complaint-summonses for certain classes of drug-related offenses. Plaintiffs requested those records as part of a comparative data analysis on the subject of disparate treatment in the administration and enforcement of marijuana and other drug-related offenses in New Jersey. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. It held that because MPD officers create the information contained in the records, the records fell within OPRA’s definition of a government record. Further, the plaintiffs’ records request was narrowly tailored.

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