OPRA case being heard Tuesday

1/30/2007 Update:

The apparent outcome of this hearing makes me wonder why OPRA even exists. Maybe it’s just useless in Hoboken.

What were the reasons this happened? Will this set a bad precedent for future OPRA cases? How does this get escalated to the next level?

From Helen:
“The oral argument started more than one hour late because the judge had a trial. No decision was announced. He will make a decision by telephone in perhaps a month. Based on the judge’s questions and tone of voice, I would say that he definitely supports the defendants. Unless the law clerk persuades him to change his mind (I have NO reason to believe that the law clerk supports us.) I think the judge will rule against us. Then the question will be whether his ruling contains any errors that can be appealed. The judge seemed more interested in protecting confidentiality than in enforcing OPRA.”

opranj.gifLocal Hoboken advocate Helen Hirsch is given the run-around once again. At what point does the Federal Government get involved and put an end to this Civil trickery?

“Improvements in governmental transparency under OPRA have been achieved sporadically, if at all. We are now facing a possible major roadblock in that progress. I requested copies of the (NJ Local Government Ethics Law) Financial Disclosure Statements of a number of Hoboken employees. I received a pile of papers, so heavily redacted as to be worthless for anything but the recycle bin. Only after the City Clerk was sued was I given intelligible copies.

Now there is a suggestion that the assigned judge, John O’Shaughnessy, will dismiss the case as moot. I doubt that the authors of the OPRA legislation intended/expected that information seekers be required to hire lawyers and pay court expenses. The hearing of my case is scheduled for Tuesday, January 30 at 3PM on the 8th floor of the Hudson County Court building at 595 Newark Street, Jersey City. Media coverage and local support would be a huge public service.”

How do incidents like this fly under the radar? What does our city have to hide?

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10 Comments on "OPRA case being heard Tuesday"

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Sounds like the judge didn’t spend much time preparing/reading either…
So there’s no recourse/penalty provided for in the law itself… I’m ashamed to say that I’m not that familiar with most political process, but seems to me that if the legislature went to the trouble to pass laws about this for the average citizen that there should be someone with oversight to this without citizens shouldering a huge financial responsibility.

But like I said, I’m not that educated about the shenanigans of the government in this town (yet)…


[quote comment=”12228″]I can’t believe more people aren’t miffed about this.[/quote]

Well, there isn’t anything to say until the judge comes back with his decision… If he decides against Helen, THEN there should be a big stink made about this… Basically the court will have ruled against an existing act that is on the books, which wouldn’t make ANY sense other than to try and help the city conceal what it is doing (which would alert people that something fishy is going on)… At that point, I’d think it would be worthy of trying to enlist a public figure to try and bring this into the public eye and possibly catch some media attention.


The city did not offer any argument for non-compliance. Their position was that they did eventually provide the redacted information (after the lawsuit was filed), thereby rendering the lawsuit moot. The judge raised questions of confidentiality, suggesting that such information as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and unlisted phone numbers should remain private – a bizarre line of reasoning, given that no such information is required on the city’s disclosure form. To be fair, the plaintiff’s request was somewhat weak in that it requested the judge to basically warn the city that, in the future, working the system in this manner is a no-no. The judge remarked that these cases would most likely have to be resolved on a case-by-case basis, which is what the city wants. Frustrate the requester and cost him or her money.


Just read up a bit on another site about this. Are the courts the only recourse in this matter? On the surface (not knowing all the details) it sure looks like a blatant disregard for the law. I’d love to hear what the city’s/judge’s justification is for this.


Isn’t OPRA that woman with that show on ABC?