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Open Public Records Act Plaintiff Entitled to Attorney’s Fees, New Jersey Appellate Court Holds

The Appellate Division for the Superior Court of New Jersey has reversed in part a lower court’s refusal to award attorney’s fees to a plaintiff in an New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA) suit.

Dean Smith won an appeal in an OPRA suit over how much the state should charge for copies of requested documents. The state had charged $.25 per page; Smith argued that fees should be limited to actual costs. The appellate court agreed with Smith. The New Jersey legislature subsequently amended the OPRA, designating a $.05 per page copying cost.

On remand, Smith sought attorney’s fees, but the lower court denied attorney’s fees finding that Smith and a separate plaintiff, Jeff Zeiger, had not substantially prevailed. Smith and Zeiger appealed, and the appeals court reversed in part.

The court held that Smith was entitled to attorney’s fees because he won his previous appeal and because the issue presented by the case was important. However, the court denied fees to Zeiger, holding that he did not participate in Smith’s appeal. See: Smith v. Hudson County Register, No. A-4113-09T3, A-4114-09T3 (Sup. Ct. App. 2011)

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Related legal case

Smith v. Hudson County Register