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Supreme Court rules for Brennan in OPRA case

Bergen County Prosecutor ordered to release names of auction winners.

By David Wildstein, May 23 2018 11:58 am

Former gubernatorial candidate Bill Brennan scored a big win against the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office today, with the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in his favor in an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) appeal involving a high-profile sports memorabilia issue.

Brennan field an OPRA request in 2014 seeking the names of the 39 successful bidders in an auction of sports memorabilia seized by then-Prosecutor John Molinelli.  Some of the memorabilia the prosecutor’s office sold turned out to be fake.

The prosecutor refused to give Brennan the names, saying that the bidders had a right to privacy.

A Superior Court Judge ruled that Brennan’s OPRA request was valid, but the prosecutor appealed the decision.  The Appellate division overturned the lower court decision.

The Supreme Court decision, written by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, was unanimous.

“To guard against possible abuses, the public has a right to know what property was sold, at what price, and to whom. OPRA’s plain terms call for disclosure of that type of recorded information, including the names and addresses of successful bidders,” Rabner wrote.  “To hold otherwise would jeopardize OPRA’s purpose: to maximize public knowledge about public affairs in order to ensure an informed citizenry and to minimize the evils inherent in a secluded process.”

The court ruled that there was a limited privacy interest and idea that the bidders would be harmed by the public knowing their names was speculative.

William J. Brennan v Bergen County Prosecutors Office
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