In November 2020, Governor Murphy signed Daniel’s Law, which amended the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and other statutes protecting personal information for certain persons in public service. Specifically, Daniel’s Law is designed to expand protections from public exposure for personal information about active and retired judges, law enforcement officers, and prosecutors, and their immediate family members.
For purposes of Daniel’s Law, the following definitions apply:
• “personal information” includes home address (primary and secondary residences), Social Security number, credit card number, unlisted telephone numbers, and driver’s license number. Although not expressly stated in the law, cell phone numbers generally would be considered to be unlisted because there is not a published directory of cell phone numbers like there is for residential home phone numbers.
• “judge” includes all federal, state, county and municipal judges serving in any court or administrative agency, including, for example, the Office of Administrative Law, Workers’ Compensation Court, and other administrative judges.
• “immediate family member” includes a spouse, child or parent of a covered individual, and any blood relative a covered individual or of a covered individual’s spouse, who lives in the same residence as the covered individual. Although not expressly stated in the law, spouse should be interpreted to include legally established civil union partners and domestic partners.
• “law enforcement officer” is not defined within Daniel’s Law, but in numerous other N.J. statutes, is defined to mean a person whose public duties include the power to act as an officer for the detection, apprehension, arrest, and conviction of offenders against the laws of this State. Based on this definition, law enforcement officer would include police officers of any rank, constables, sheriff’s officers, State troopers, FBI agents, and similar positions.Because the law amends OPRA, libraries must ensure that before disclosing any government records in response to an OPRA request, the documents are screened to ensure that any personal information is redacted. This means that libraries should survey their staff, including all employees and volunteers, to determine if any of them personally, or if any of their immediate family members (as defined above) is an active or retired judge, law enforcement officer or prosecutor, and the library should keep a record of the staff members with this affiliation. Then, priorto making any public disclosure of any government record in response to an OPRA request, the requested records must be reviewed to ensure that if any those “staff” members are referenced, no personal information is included in, or any included is redacted from, the records.
In addition to library staff, these restrictions also would apply to any Library user, who is an active or retired judge, law enforcement officer or prosecutor, and to the immediate family members of those users. Fortunately, as long as a library remains compliant with the statutory requirements for maintaining the confidentiality of library records with regard to information about library users, the library would not need to take any further precautions to avoid being at risk for violating Daniel’s Law with regard to library users.
In addition to OPRA requests, these same restrictions prohibit the posting such personal information on the Internet. The law further provides that any active or retired judges, law enforcement officers and prosecutors, who learn that their personal information is available on the Internet, may provide written notice to the party which posted it, or which is responsible for the site on which the information appears, and request that the personal information be removed from the site. Any party receiving such notice, must comply within 72 hours or risk criminal and civil
If you have any questions about Daniel’s Law and its applicability to your library, or about any other aspect of library law, please contact Douglas S. Zucker, Esq. at [email protected], office 973–403–1100, or cell 973–919–7259.
Douglas S. Zucker