The common law definition of public record is broader than that contained in the Right to Know Law. A public record under the common law is. Porter , 32 N. Records of character investigations, or four-way checks, clearly are written memorials made by public officers in the exercise of public functions, which they are lawfully authorized to perform. Several lower courts have adopted the definition of public record appearing in the Destruction of Public Records Law, N.
See ante at , as the common law definition.
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See Moore v. Benson, 90 N. Arguably, the written portion of the character investigation undertaken herein constitutes a public record under both of these common law definitions. We were advised at oral argument that the subject matter of a character investigation may sometimes be communicated orally to the Governor.
Thus, it is not entirely clear that a character investigation is reduced invariably to written form. For purposes of this case, however, it is assumed that these are written reports constituting the four-way investigation in question. Under the common law rule of access to public documents, a citizen is entitled to inspect documents of a public nature ". Williams, 41 N. Ferry was referring to a need of the document in the prosecution or defense of a legal action. This strict definition of interest was diluted in Higgins v.
Lockwood , 74 N. Warner Communications, Inc. The Court added that the common law right to inspect and copy public records is not absolute. Nero has a cognizable common law interest in obtaining the materials collected about him. He presumably wishes to defend his reputation in some future legal action.
However, the existence of this interest gives him no absolute right to the documents. In Cashen v. Spann, 66 N. We cited Roviaro v. United States , U. Cashen adopted the Roviaro view that.
The problem is one that calls for balancing the public interest in protecting the flow of information against the individual's right to prepare his defense. Whether a proper balance renders nondisclosure erroneous must depend on the particular circumstances of each case, taking into consideration the crime charged, the possible defenses, the possible significance of the informer's testimony, and other relevant factors. We made this rule applicable to civil cases. Thus, Nero's interest in disclosure must be balanced against the public interest in the confidentiality of these files.
As head of the Executive Branch of State Government, a New Jersey Governor is responsible for making a staggering number of appointments to public office. In many instances, his personal knowledge of a prospective appointee is fleeting at best. The overwhelming importance of having able, honest and honorable persons in all appointive posts is self-evident. A reasonable and expeditious method to investigate prospective appointees in order to further that goal is by the "four-way" check.
Moreover, the main reason for the effectiveness of such investigations is that the individuals who are questioned can be assured anonymity. It is extremely unlikely that persons who are questioned pursuant to one of these checks would ever be forthright in responding if their anonymity could not be guaranteed. This undesirable "chilling effect" would be especially pernicious with respect to persons who might otherwise provide information relevant to the prospective appointee's unsuitability for public office. As indicated in its preamble, this concern was a critical factor in prompting Governor Hughes to issue the very Executive Order considered by the trial judge:.
WHEREAS, Certain persons have suggested that investigative files in the possession of the New Jersey State Police should be made available for inspection contrary to long-standing and well-established policy against such inspection; and. In Koch v. Department of Justice, F.
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Department of Defense, U. Furthermore, the Governor, as chief executive, must be accorded a qualified power to protect the confidentiality of communications pertaining to the executive function. Nixon , U. Confidentiality is vital not only because it serves to protect government sources of information, cf.
Roviaro v. Milligan , 71 N. More importantly, this executive privilege protects and insulates the sensitive decisional and consultative responsibilities of the Governor which can only be discharged freely and effectively under a mantle of privacy and security. A vital public interest is clearly involved in the effectiveness of the decision-making and investigatory duties of the executive. United States v. Nixon, supra; NLRB v.
Sears Roebuck Co. Open Market Committee of Fed. Reserve System, U. United States, F.
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A qualified privilege for comunications relating to the executive function promotes the effective discharge of these constitutional duties while ensuring that, in appropriate circumstances, disclosure of the privileged material will be forthcoming. In the context of our own governmental structure, it furthers a primary objective of the Constitutional Convention, namely, the creation of a strong executive. See Russo v. Governor, 22 N.
When the danger of possible unjust censure of a candidate for appointment, especially one who is already a public figure whose character and personal attributes are already the subject of legitimate public interest, see Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc.follow link
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We hold that the public interest in maintaining confidentiality outweighs plaintiff's interest in disclosure and that no common law right to total access or in camera inspection exists with respect to materials gathered in character investigations of this kind. The Appellate Division held that in balancing the competing interests, consideration should be given to the fact that the Governor elected to comment on the results of the investigation.
The plaintiff argues that this constituted a waiver of the absolute confidentiality of that report. The Governor told the press only that the Attorney General had not recommended appointment of Nero as a result of information revealed by the four-way check. We do not believe this fact justifies release of the material.
Nor does it constitute a waiver. Back to Results. Download Print Get alerts. Nero v. Hyland 76 N. Browse cases. New Jersey. Cases citing this document How cited Piniero v. Brown N. Summaries written by judges Summaries holding that character investigations ordered by governor in contemplation of nomination were not Right-to-Know documents because not required to be made, maintained, or kept Summary of this case from Higg-A-Rella, Inc.
County of Essex recognizing that the purpose of RTKL is "the salutary one of promoting a free flow of information in order to ensure an informed citizenry" Summary of this case from Hip of New Jersey, Inc. New Jersey State Records contain the information about criminal records, court records, vital records and state background checks; including over 20 million transparent public records. Public records in the state of New Jersey were created starting from the year , and from all 33 counties. Both third party and governmental websites offer these records online with increased reliability thanks to the ongoing standardization of digital public records.
This has been happening for the past 30 years, and ensures New Jersey abides by the commitment of the United States of America to remain a fair and just society for all.
The County of Bergen, which is part of the New York Metropolitan Area, is the most populated county in New Jersey, and is subject to the same rights for finding public and arrest records that every New Jersian enjoys. The second most populated county in New Jersey is Middlesex; home of the city of Edison. The people of Middlesex have access to public records, arrest records, and more, contributing to a more just and free society.
The people of Essex enjoy the right to seek out, and collect public records of all kinds. Thanks to the Open Public Records Act, the citizens of Hudson County have access to public, arrest, court, and vital records. Here are some ways to access those records. The seventh most populous county in New Jersey is Union County, which has its county seat in Elizabeth. The residents of Union enjoy the freedom to look up, study, and obtain public records as a law-given freedom. The Garden State provides legislation to guarantee its citizens are able to access public records, but finding these records is not always easy.
Thankfully, there are resources both online and off. Learn more here. New Jersey considers drinking and driving to be a very serious offense, and usually fines, penalizes and restricts offender.