2024 OPRA Amendments

On June 5, 2024, Governor Murphy signed S2930/A4045, which by far are the most significant changes to the Open Public Records Act since OPRA became law in 2002.

The amendments become effective in 90 days, which is September 3, 2024.  While the amendments contain many important changes that will be the subject of future posts, we highlight the following issues.

Retroactivity:  The first question that will face practitioners is retroactivity, which itself will be a complex question.  In at least one prior iteration of the amendments, the amendments were made retroactively effective to all matters OPRA matters pending in the Government Records Council (GRC), Trial Courts, and all appeals. But this language was removed from the final version, so requestors will have the opportunity to argue that the amendments should only be applied to OPRA requests filed after the effective date of the Legislation.

Anonymous Complaints Limited:  The second question is how practitioners should address the amendments’ language regarding anonymous complaints. While anonymous OPRA requests are permitted, the amendments bar GRC or Superior Court complaints where the plaintiff is anonymous or uses a pseudonym. This requirement is retroactive; if a plaintiff does not identify themselves and provide a mailing address in their complaint, the public agency may file a motion to have the complaint dismissed with prejudice. The amendments also grant leave for plaintiffs to amend their complaints “within” 90 days of the effective date of the law. Because of the use of the word “within,” rather than “after,” the window for the filing of such amendments should be open now. Any practitioner with a pending matter at any stage of litigation, including appeals, should review their open matters and determine whether an amendment would be appropriate.