NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - On Friday, October 30, 2015, the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government ("NJFOG") attended a hearing in Kaplan v. Kratovil at New Brunswick Family Court.  The hearing was to determine whether the Court would enter a Final Restraining Order ("FRO") against the Defendant based on an Open Public Records Act ("OPRA") request he filed with the City of New Brunswick.  The Plaintiff, Ms. Kaplan, alleged that the Defendant, Mr. Kratovil, was harassing her because he filed an OPRA request that named, among other people, Ms. Kaplan's husband, who is on the New Brunswick Rent Control Board.

The Court had entered a Temporary Restraining Order ("TRO") against Mr. Kratovil based on the filing of his OPRA request.  The October 30 hearing was held to determine whether the TRO should be dismissed or converted into a final domestic violence restraining order.

The entry of a final restraining order against a person is a serious matter.  In general, an FRO prevents a person from contacting their victim under any circumstances, including by email, phone, text, or by talking to them.  A violation of an FRO is a crime that carries serious criminal penalties.  A second conviction of violating an FRO carries a mandatory 30-day prison sentence, which makes allegations of domestic violence against any person a matter of great concern.

Previously, a temporary restraining order had been placed on Charles Kratovil, editor of New Brunswick Today, a newspaper that reports on and criticizes New Brunswick’s municipal government and police.  In this particular case, the entry of a TRO based on a single OPRA request raises important questions regarding access to public records.  While OPRA already prevents criminals from getting access to the personal information of their victims, this case presented the troubling question of whether an OPRA request itself could constitute an act of domestic violence.

Fortunately, in this particular case, the Court held that Mr. Kratovil's OPRA request did not constitute harassment, and the TRO was dismissed.  However, this case raises important questions regarding whether and how government officials or their family members can use an OPRA request about them as the basis for filing a domestic violence complaint or even criminal charges.

NJFOG’s “Report 15-01: Does An OPRA Request Constitute Harassment?” provides additional information about the case, including the Court’s basis for denying our request to video-record, a partial transcript of testimony, the judge’s ruling, and our comments and conclusions.