The New Jersey Assembly has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would protect people who speak out on public issues from baseless lawsuits meant to intimidate them into silence.
The legislation, A-603, targets SLAPP suits, the shorthand for what are known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.
SLAPP suits, which often occur in the context of opposition to real estate development projects, pitting people from the community against a wealthy corporation, are meant to deter opposition because of the high cost of defending them, even if they are eventually thrown out for lack merit or withdrawn once the developer or other SLAPP plaintiff has succeeded in quelling critics.
Continue reading NEW HOPE FOR anti-SLAPP BILL
A bill moving through the New Jersey Legislature threatens to undermine the Open Public Records Act, known as OPRA.
OPRA’s defining characteristic and its great strength are its presumption of public access to all government records and the information they contain, except for 24 expressly exempted categories, and the ability to recover legal fees when access is wrongfully denied. The exemptions encompass such areas as personnel records; advisory, consultative or deliberative material; criminal investigation and victims’ records; trade secrets; security measures and procedures whose disclosure would jeopardize safety; and records subject to attorney -client privilege. A specific “Personal Identifying Information” exemption already exists for four kinds of crucial identifiers: Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, drivers’ license numbers and unlisted phone numbers.
Continue reading CHIPPING AWAY AT OPRA
A lot of attention has been focused on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry crude oil across four western states, damaging the environment and disturbing Native American historical and cultural sites.
Similar battles over proposed pipelines are taking place right here in New Jersey and recent developments will at least delay two of those projects and hopefully allow for more public input on their impact.
Continue reading COURT ORDER DO-OVER ON PINELANDS PIPELINE APPROVAL