Transparency Victory: NJ Supreme Court Largely Sides with Police Accountability

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 12, 2017

Contact: John Garcia, 212-739-7581 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org

LatinoJustice's statement on the NJ Supreme Court Ruling on Police Accountability

“LatinoJustice joins with our colleagues at the ACLU-NJ in cheering the unanimous decision issued by the New Jersey Supreme Court today concerning police accountability in North Jersey Media Group v. Lyndhurst, a pivotal case that will play a large role in shaping police transparency in New Jersey.” The ACLU-NJ’s amicus brief in the case was filed on behalf of eight other civil rights organizations including the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey, Black Lives Matter - New Jersey, Garden State Bar Association, Garden State Equality, Latino Action Network, Latino Leadership Alliance, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and People’s Organization for Progress. The friend of the court brief argued that New Jersey’s transparency law dictates that the public should have access to the police records in this case.

Background About the Original Filing

LatinoJustice joins ACLU-NJ Before NJ Supreme Court to Argue Police Shooting Record Cannot Be Kept Secret LJP joined eight civil rights groups led by the ACLU- NJ in filing an amicus “friend of the court” brief in a landmark case before the New Jersey Supreme Court to define the limits of transparency when it comes to police accountability in New Jersey. The case is North Jersey Media Group v. Lyndhurst.

The case centers on requests the North Jersey Media Group (NJMG) made for records concerning a car chase that ended with a police officer fatally shooting the driver, Kashad Ashford. The NJ Appellate Division in June 2015 drastically limited public access to law enforcement records when it reversed a lower court decision that had upheld the right of NJMG to access the requested police records under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). NJMG sought arrest reports, police logs, use of force reports and motor vehicle accident reports, among other records, shortly after the shooting of Ashford in September of 2014. Crucially, the request sought audio and video footage recorded during the incident. These recordings have become a powerful tool for holding police accountable nationally, as evidenced throughout the brief with references to several high-profile police-involved deaths recorded on video. Amici further argued that several important facts disqualify these records from the defendants’ claimed exemption for ongoing criminal investigatory records.

The Supreme Court amicus brief and additional materials in the case, captioned North Jersey Media Group v. Township of Lyndhurst, can be read online. The case will be argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court later this year.

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