This article says there are currently two pending trial court cases in which public bodies are claiming that the OPRA request must be denied because the requestor is not a citizen of New Jersey. This defense is rarely raised in OPRA cases, probably because winning this argument will provide little benefit to public bodies.
The problem is that even if a court were to agree that non-citizens are not allowed to make OPRA requests, this would not prevent such requests. A non-citizen could get around the prohibition by submitting an anonymous request, as permitted by the statute, or by having a New Jersey citizen make the request for him. In short, the prohibition would be largely unenforceable.
Aside from this practical problem, the legal argument that non-citizens are barred from making OPRA requests strikes me as unlikely to succeed. Construing the statute as limited to citizens would mean that many of the news companies that regularly cover New Jersey affairs–such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times and Philadelphia and New York TV stations–are prohibited from submitting OPRA requests. I doubt that the Legislature intended this result.
The statute’s language does not clearly say that non-citizens are barred from using OPRA to obtain records. The sections of OPRA that deal with requests and their denial refer to “persons” making the requests, not “citizens,” N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5 and -6. The citizenship argument is based on a single sentence in OPRA, which declares it to be New Jersey’s policy that government records “shall be readily accessible for inspection, copying, or examination by the citizens of this State.” However, this sentence does not say that an OPRA request may only be made by a State citizen.
In any event, as noted, a public body has little to gain, as a practical matter, from attempting to persuade a court to construe OPRA as forbidding requests from non-citizens.