A person who is denied access to a government record by the custodian of the record, has the option to either:
1) File an action in Superior Court to challenge the custodian's decision. This proceeding shall be heard in the vicinage (county) where it is filed by a Superior Court Judge who has been designated to hear such cases because of that judge's knowledge and expertise in matters relating to access to government records; or

2) File a complaint with the Government Records Council established pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-7, in lieu of filing an action in Superior Court. At this time, the Government Records Council has not yet been established. Please call the NJ Department of Community Affairs for further information.

The right to institute any proceeding to challenge denial of access to a government record shall be solely that of the requestor. Any such proceeding shall proceed in a summary or expedited manner. The public agency shall have the burden of proving that the denial of access is authorized by law. If it is determined that access has been improperly denied, the court or agency head shall order that access be allowed. A requestor who prevails in any proceeding shall be entitled to reasonable attorney's fees.
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Procedures for filing a complaint in Superior Court:
Contact the Mercer County Superior Court:
Mercer County Civil Courts Building
Attention: Civil Division
175 South Broad Street
P.O. Box 8068
Trenton, New Jersey 08650
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Procedures for filing a compliant with the Government Records Council: (Once the Records Council has been established):
Upon receipt of a written complaint signed by any person alleging that a custodian of a government record has improperly denied that person access to a government record, the council shall offer the parties the opportunity to resolve the dispute through mediation. Mediation shall enable a person who has been denied access to a government record and the custodian who denied or failed to provide access thereto to attempt to mediate the dispute through a process whereby a neutral mediator, who shall be trained in mediation selected by the council, acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of the dispute. Mediation shall be an informal, non-adversarial process having the objective of helping the parties reach a mutually acceptable, voluntary agreement. The mediator shall assist the parties in identifying issues, foster joint problem solving, and explore settlement alternatives.

If any party declined mediation or if mediation fails to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all parties, the council shall initiate an investigation concerning the facts and circumstances set forth in the complaint. The council shall make a determination as to whether the complaint is within its jurisdiction, frivolous, or without any reasonable factual basis. If the council concludes that the complaint is outside its jurisdiction, frivolous, or without factual basis, it shall reduce that conclusion to writing and transmit a copy thereof to the complainant and to the records custodian against whom the complaint was filed. Otherwise, the council shall notify the records custodian against whom the complaint was filed of the nature of the complaint and the facts and circumstances set forth therein. The custodian shall have the opportunity to present the board with any statement or information concerning the complaint that the custodian wishes.

If the council is able to make a determination as to a record's accessibility based upon the complaint and the custodian's response thereto, it shall reduce that conclusion to writing and transmit a copy thereof to the complaint and to the records custodian against whom the complaint was filed. If the council is unable to make a determination as to a record's accessibility based upon the complaint and the custodian's response thereto, the council shall conduct a hearing on the matter in conformity with the rules and regulations provided for hearings by a state agency in contested cases under the "Administrative Procedure Act" P.M. 1968, c.410 (52:14B-1 et seq.), insofar as they may be applicable and practicable.

The council shall, by a majority vote of its members, render a decision as to whether the records which is the subject of the complaint is a government record which must be made available for public access pursuant to P.L. 1963, c.73 (47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended an supplemented. If the council determines, by a majority vote of its members, that a custodian has knowingly and willfully violated P.L. 1963, c73 (47:1A-1 et seq.), as amended and supplemented, and is found to have unreasonably denied access under the totality of the circumstances, the council may be appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court. A decision of the council shall not have value as a precedent for any case initiated in Superior Court pursuant to section 7 of P.L. 2001, c.404 (47:1A-6). All proceedings of the council pursuant to this subsection shall be conducted as expeditiously as possible.

The council shall not charge any party a fee in regard to actions filed with the council. The council shall be subject to the provisions of the "Open Public Meetings Act" P.L. 1975, c.231 (10:4-6), except that the council may go into closed session during that portion of any proceeding during which the contents of a contested record would be disclosed. A requestor who prevails in any proceeding shall be entitled to a reasonable attorney's fee.

Statutory references: N.J.S.A. 47:1A-6 and N.J.S.A. 47:1A-67.
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