On March 29, 2023, the Appellate Division decided Rise Against Hate v. Cherry Hill Township, (“RAH”), which is an unpublished case. An unpublished decision is binding only on the parties, and ordinarily cannot be cited by other New Jersey courts. The opinion addresses the disclosure of email addresses of individuals that have subscribed to municipal email lists to receive electronic notices from municipalities. Under the circumstances of that case, the Court held that persons who signed up for such municipal email lists have a reasonable expectation of privacy that their email addresses will not be disclosed to non-governmental organizations who intend to send them unsolicited emails to further their goals. (Disclosure: While our firm was not involved in this appeal, we have represented Rise Against Hate in other cases).
Although the Court held that OPRA did not contain a general prohibition against disclosing emails, the Court held that those who signed up for email alerts did have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” and described the plaintiffs’ interest in disclosure as “minimal.” Although the Court also held that the “harm from disclosure” was “likely minimal,” the Court characterized unsolicited emails as a “nuisance” and that disclosure did not further the public interest.
Because this case is an unpublished decision, it is not binding on other New Jersey courts. But it does give some insight into one perspective regarding how email addresses are treated under OPRA.