Post-Pandemic Court Appearances in OPRA Cases

On November 18, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a Notice to the Bar entitled Future of Court - Operations - Continuation of Both In-Person and Virtual Court Events that gave the public guidance regarding which court events will be in person and which court events will be held remotely. This post focuses on whether attorneys and parties in OPRA cases may be required to appear in person or if OPRA proceedings will continue to be conducted remotely.

Although the Notice to the Bar does not specifically mention OPRA cases, OPRA cases are in many ways analogous to what are called “actions in lieu of prerogative writs.” The Court’s notice states that prerogative writ actions “in general will proceed in a virtual format, absent an individualized reason to proceed in person based on the facts and circumstances of the case[.]”

We expect that OPRA actions will be treated the same as prerogative writ actions, and expect that hearings in OPRA cases will continue to be held remotely. Because OPRA cases do not have jury trials, pre-trial conferences, arbitrations or (in most cases) settlement conferences, they do not fit into the categories of matters where in-person appearances would be required. These are positive developments, because it gives clients and the public the continued opportunity to view courtroom proceedings without having to travel to Court in person.

Oral argument of appeals of OPRA cases to the Appellate Division and Supreme Court will generally be held in person, which is a return to how these matters were held prior to the pandemic.