Municipalities Are Not Required to Create Email Logs in Response to OPRA Requests
Apr 20, 2016 | Written by: Share|
In April 2016, the Appellate Division unanimously held in the case of Paff v. Galloway Township (Docket No. A-0125-14T4) that the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) does not require a records custodian to create a log of emails in response to a request.
In June 2013, John Paff, a frequent OPRA requestor and litigant, submitted an OPRA request to Galloway Township seeking a “log” of all emails sent by the Township Clerk and Chief of Police during a certain time period. Mr. Paff did not request any specific emails, but rather requested a list showing the sender, recipient, date and subject of the sent emails during a designated time period. The Township denied the request claiming that no such record existed. Mr. Paff filed suit in the Superior Court seeking to compel the Township to produce the log of emails. The Superior Court ruled that the underlying electronic data and emails were public records and that preparation of the log required little effort. Therefore, the Superior Court concluded that “[b]y logical / reasonable extension, a log or list of emails that can be easily prepared” is within the definition of a public record under OPRA.
However, the Appellate Division overturned that decision, holding that “while a computer may be able to create an email log quickly, it is still creating a new government record, which is not required under OPRA…” The Court continued that requiring municipalities and other government agencies to create such reports or logs would impose a burden.