On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County.
Petrella and Dreier. The opinion of the court was delivered by Dreier, J.A.D.
Plaintiff Home News Publishing Company has appealed from a Law Division order denying the Newspaper access to certain classes of parole records. The newspaper requested defendant, New Jersey State Parole Board (Parole Board), to give plaintiff access to specified but wide-ranging Parole Board records concerning eight parolees. The following information was requested:
(1) The number of times and dates each individual was considered for parole.
(2) The dates of each denial of parole.
(3) A copy of the hearing determination.
(4) A copy of the case assessment.
(5) A copy of all reports presented during any such hearings.
(6) Whether these paroles were granted administratively or by Board Panel hearing.
(7) All records reflecting credits earned to reduce sentence including recording reflecting programs in which such credits were earned.
(8) A copy of the notification of release.
(9) Records reflecting current parole status.*fn1
(10) Records reflecting correspondence between Parole Board and Bureau of Parole.
(11) Transcript, minutes or recordings of parole hearings.
The Attorney General's Office advised the Parole Board that it only had to supply plaintiff with three classes of records, (1), (2)
and (6), above. The Parole Board sent plaintiff the information approved by the Attorney General's Office.
On May 19, 1986 plaintiff filed a Law Division complaint. The Parole Board moved to dismiss the complaint or in the alternative to transfer the action to the Appellate Division.*fn2 The trial judge denied the Parole Board's motion. The Parole Board then moved for summary judgment asserting that the requested information is exempt from the Right to Know Law and that the interest in confidentiality outweighs plaintiff's common law right of inspection. The judge denied both this motion and a subsequent motion for reconsideration on the basis that the court had not reviewed the documents in controversy. The Parole Board submitted the documents for an in camera inspection, and the judge granted the summary judgment motion on May 26, 1987.
Because the judge's orders inadvertently were not forwarded to plaintiff, it assumed that the case had been transferred to the Appellate Division and therefore failed to file a notice of appeal. Leave to appeal nunc pro tunc was therefore granted on November 10, 1987.
On this appeal Home News contends that it is entitled to the requested parole information pursuant to the Right to Know Law, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq., and the common law right of inspection, see Irval Realty v. Bd. of Pub. Util. Comm'rs, 61 N.J. 366, 372 (1972).
We note initially that the trial judge merely determined that inmates were deserving of a protected right of privacy. She did not examine the interplay between the Right to Know Law, the common-law ...