In the recent case of Zezza v. Evesham Twp. Bd. of Educ., A-0537-21 (June 29, 2023), a citizen requested 35 seconds of surveillance footage taken from two cameras on the premises of Rice Elementary School in Evesham Township that captured an alleged assault. The plaintiff sought the video surveillance, pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law right of access, and submitted an OPRA request to the school district. The school district denied the request, stating that the security footage was exempt from production pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.112.
The plaintiff then filed an order to show cause. The trial court ordered the defendant to produce the surveillance video and found that the plaintiff was a prevailing party, entitled to attorney’s fees and costs. The defendant filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied, and additional fees were awarded to plaintiff’s counsel.
The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that there was not a blanket exception for all surveillance videos pursuant to Gilleran v. Twp. of Bloomfield, 227 N.J. 159 (2016). The Appellate Division found that pursuant to Gilleran, surveillance footage is barred from disclosure if there is a public security concern that access would reveal security-compromising information. Thus, the burden is on the governmental entity to establish that the denial of access is authorized by law. Here, the defendant failed to meet its burden and the production of the video surveillance, along with the fee award, was affirmed by the Appellate Division.