New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act
The New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Title 10 Chapter 4 of the New Jersey code define the law.
Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of open meetings lawsuits in New Jersey. For more information go the page or go to New Jersey sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
|Times of Trenton v. Lafayette Yard CDC||2005|
Proposed open meetings legislation
We do not currently have any legislation for New Jersey in 2010.
Statement of purposeThe statement of purpose of the Open Meetings Act states,
""The Legislature finds and declares that the right of the public to be present at all meetings of public bodies, and to witness in full detail all phases of the deliberation, policy formulation, and decision making of public bodies, is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process; that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public's effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society, and hereby declares it to be the public policy of this State to insure the right of its citizens to have adequate advance notice of and the right to attend all meetings of public bodies at which any business affecting the public is discussed or acted upon in any way except only in those circumstances where otherwise the public interest would be clearly endangered or the personal privacy or guaranteed rights of individuals would be clearly in danger of unwarranted invasion.
The Legislature further declares it to be the public policy of this State to insure that the aforesaid rights are implemented pursuant to the provisions of this act so that no confusion, misconstructions or misinterpretations may thwart the purposes hereof.
The Legislature, therefore, declares that it is the understanding and the intention of the Legislature that in order to be covered by the provisions of this act a public body must be organized by law and be collectively empowered as a multi-member voting body to spend public funds or affect persons' rights; that, therefore, informal or purely advisory bodies with no effective authority are not covered, nor are groupings composed of a public official with subordinates or advisors, who are not empowered to act by vote such as a mayor or the Governor meeting with department heads or cabinet members, that specific exemptions are provided for the Judiciary, parole bodies, the State Commission of Investigation, the Apportionment Commission and political party organization; that to be covered by the provisions of this act a meeting must be open to all the public body's members, and the members present must intend to discuss or act on the public body's business; and therefore, typical partisan caucus meetings and chance encounters of members of public bodies are neither covered by the provisions of this act, nor are they intended to be so covered."
Which government meetings are open to the public?
The law states that a meeting is any gathering which is open to all members of the public body for the purposes of discussing or deciding on public business.
Notable exemptions to this definition include:
- all meetings that are attended by less than a majority of the members of the public body
- conventions that are open to members of three or more similar public bodies
What government bodies are subject to the laws?
The act defines government body as any group of 2 or more individuals, created by state or municipal laws which are authorized to perform a public function or spend public funds. The act explicitly includes the legislature.
Notable exemptions to the definition of public body include:
- Judicial branch
- grand or petit juries
- parole boards
- State Commission of Investigation
- Apportionment Commission
- single party caucuses
The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at http://ldb.njstatelib.org/Library_Law/lwopnmtg.php N.J.S.A.10:4-8.a] and is subject to the New Jersey Open Public Meetings Act.
The act requires that all public bodies provide 48 hours notice for all meetings, including the time and location of the meeting as well as an agenda of the meeting. The act requires that the notice must be posted at one regular location within the public agencies offices, be sent to at least two newspapers, be filed with the local clerk or the secretary of state and be sent to all individuals who have requested notice of the meetings. The act allows for emergency meetings to be convened with a 2/3 vote of the public body. The subject of the meeting is limited to only the urgent matters and notice must be posted as soon as possible.
The act requires that all public bodies take minutes of meetings including the time and location of the meeting, members present, topics discussed and members votes. The minutes of the meeting must also include note of the efforts made to post notice to the public.
The act also prevents a public body from choosing not to invite members of the public body so as to circumvent the open meetings law in any way.
|Common executive session exemptions|
|Personal privacy (including employees)|
|Purchase or sale of property|
|Exempt under other laws|
The public body may hold closed executive sessions with a majority vote for the following reasons:
- any information which is exempt under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act or any other state or federal statute
- any matter that would impair the ability to receive federal funds
- any disclosure that would result in an unwarranted invasion of privacy
- Collective bargaining information
- discussions of the purchase or sale of property
- security information
- discussions of pending or anticipated litigation that would fall under the attorney client privilege
- matters involving employment or termination of employees, including disciplinary hearings unless the individual requests a public meeting
- licensing or permit discussions, including the assessment of civil penalties
Anyone who perceives a violation of the act may file suit in court. The Court may void any action taken by a public body during a meeting in violation of this act, provided that the suit was filed within 45 days of the violation. The court may also place fines of up to $100 for the first offense and between $100 and $500 for subsequent offenses on public officials who violate the act.
State of New Jersey
|State executive officer||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | Comptroller | Commissioner of Education | Commissioner of Insurance | Secretary of Agriculture | Commissioner of Environmental Protection | Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development | President of Public Utilities |