Civil action. On defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Bennett, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).
[76 NJSuper Page 43] In this action the plaintiffs seek to compel the defendants to make available
to them certain public records, to permit the plaintiffs to photocopy these records, and to secure the continuing jurisdiction and supervision of the Superior Court over such photocopying. In general, these records consist of the public and financial records maintained by the Mercer County administration.
All of the plaintiffs herein are taxpayers in Mercer County and registered Republican voters. In addition, the plaintiff Moore is chairman of the Republican County Committee, and the plaintiffs Meredith and Hollendonner are Republican candidates for the board of chosen freeholders as a result of the 1962 primary election.
The defendants are elected or appointed officials of the County of Mercer and have custody of the public records which the plaintiffs seek to photocopy. With the exception of the defendant Sharkey, all are registered Democratic voters, and the defendants Sypek and Coffee are both incumbent freeholders and candidates for re-election.
The plaintiffs claim that the desired records are distributed throughout the various departments of government in such a way that it is necessary for them to have available for photocopying all records of a public nature so that they may be able adequately to study and comprehend them. The plaintiffs further allege that their efforts in the past to gain access to and to read or copy these public records have been impeded by the harassment and lack of cooperation on the part of the named defendants.
It is admitted by the defendants that the plaintiffs have the right to read and inspect all records of a public nature. The defendants have also agreed that the plaintiffs may copy such records by hand as they are inspecting them. Furthermore, during the hearing of a motion to dismiss before the Honorable Frank J. Kingfield, A.J.S.C., on June 29, 1962, Joseph S. Bash, Esq., attorney for the defendants, stated that the County of Mercer was willing to do any desired photocopying for the plaintiffs. He said:
"Your Honor, the county has always permitted the plaintiffs to inspect and hand-copy the records. The county has also offered, through the defendant, George Sutch, that they were ready to photocopy the records at reasonable times for a reasonable fee with proper safeguards. We are still willing to photo-copy the records for the plaintiffs."
During the hearing of the present motion the defendants have again expressed their willingness to allow the plaintiffs to read, inspect and hand-copy the desired public records and to photocopy such records for the plaintiffs under the supervision of the court.
On June 29, 1962 the defendants moved before Judge Kingfield, in the Chancery Division, for a judgment dismissing the plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; for a dismissal as to certain plaintiffs on the grounds that they were not necessary or proper parties; for a judgment of dismissal because the complaint was motivated by partisan political purposes in an effort to utilize the court solely for propaganda; and for an order striking certain paragraphs of the complaint as being redundant, impertinent and scandalous. The motion was denied. The court held that the complaint should not be dismissed for a failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted since the defendant had not yet filed his answer.
The defendants have answered and now move for summary judgment on the ground that there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the defendants, Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Mercer et ...