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Pepe v. Pepe

Decided: May 5, 1992.

JEANNETTE PEPE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STEPHEN PEPE, DEFENDANT



Milberg, A.j.s.c.

Milberg

MILBERG, A.J.S.C.

In this domestic violence proceeding, the Asbury Park Press, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as the "Press") owner and publisher of the Asbury Park Press, a newspaper of general circulation in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, makes an application to have access to all of the court records on file with the Clerk of the Superior Court.

The two questions presented here have been troublesome to the Family Division and have not heretofore been decided by the courts of New Jersey. The first question is does the confidential provision of N.J.S.A. 2C:25-33 apply to the judicial records kept on file with the Clerk of the Superior Court or is it limited to the statistical records that are required

to be maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts. The second question is whether N.J.S.A. 2C:25-33 is unconstitutional to the extent that it is interpreted as an absolute prohibition against the public's access to public records in domestic violence proceedings.

I hold that N.J.S.A. 2C:25-33 applies to the records kept on file with the Clerk of the Superior Court. I further hold that the confidentiality provision of N.J.S.A. 2C:25-33 is not absolute and therefore is constitutional.

In support of this application for access to the court records the Press argues that it was the intent of the Legislature in using the word confidential to make only the statistical records maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts confidential and not the records on file with the Clerk of the Superior Court.

R. 1:38 provides in pertinent part as follows:

"All records which are required by statute or rules to be made, maintained or kept on file by any court, office, or official within the judicial branch of government shall be deemed a public record and shall be available for public inspection and copying, as provided by law, except:

(d) Records required by statute or rule to be kept confidential or withheld from indiscriminate public inspection;

(e) Records in any matter which a court has ordered impounded or kept confidential . . ."

R. 1:38(d) and (e) restrict the access of the Press to court records where the records are required by statute or rule to be kept confidential or withheld from indiscriminate public inspection or where the court ...


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