The Open Public Records Act provides procedures for the public (the "requester') to review or copy government records. This Records Note provides a summary of these procedures and guidance for requesting records.

To access government records, a requester must determine which records he or she wishes to see or copy, and then determine which public agency holds them. OPRA applies to requests for records, not request for isolated facts. The requester should ask the custodian of records for help in identifying what public record is likely to contain the information or facts being sought.

In order to be considered a valid request under OPRA, the request must identify the specific record(s) desired, the request must be submitted to the records custodian of the public agency that has the record, and the request must be in writing on the agency's records request form or some other written format (such as a letter, e-mail or fax) that clearly mentions OPRA.

Requesters should contact the agency in advance to determine the identity of the custodian. That will help eliminate delays in fulfilling a request. In a municipal government, the custodian will be the municipal clerk, or, at other levels of government, someone in that agency who has been appointed to that job. In many municipal governments, records routinely available through an office, like the police department or tax collector, can still be obtained directly from those offices.

Calling ahead or checking agency web sites in advance of filing requests can save time and aggravation. State government has a web site, OPRA Central, dedicated to helping people find state government records. OPRA Central also has lists of Internet links to New Jersey public agency web sites.