||New Jersey Libertarian Party
Open Government Advocacy Project:
Lean and mean version of the NJ civil case database
- At last night\'s New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG) Board meeting, I was asked to prepare a stripped-down version of the New Jersey Civil Case database and give detailed instructions on how to use it. This is what I did.
I took the NJCIVIL.TXT file which contains approximately 260,000 records and deleted all the cases such as auto accidents, name changes, etc. and left only cases of the following types: Civil Rights, Whistleblower, Discrimination and Open Public Records. These are the types of cases that I believe that most open government advocates are interested in. This reduced the size of the file from about 260,000 records to about 5,600 records.
I then sorted the records, first by county, and then by case type and then by docket number staring with the newest and ending with the oldest. So, if you open the file, the Atlantic County cases are listed first and the Warren County cases are listed last. Within each county, the Civil Rights cases are listed first, followed by the Whistleblower, Discrimination and the Open Public Records Act cases. Finally, the cases of each type are listed from newest to oldest.
In order to use this new file, the first thing you need to do is download it from the following URL:
Then, save it to your hard drive and open it with a text editor. I use EditPlus, which I like very much and which has a free evaluation version that can be downloaded from http://www.editplus.com/ But, you can use any text editor, such as WordPad or NotePad that are are on almost all Windows computers. Once you get the file open, turn off the \"word wrap\" (which in WordPad is under the \"view\" tab) and the file should reformat in nice, neat columns.
Suppose you\'re interested in Morris County. Search (use CTRL-F) for the string \"MRS-L\" and you\'ll jump down to Wright v. Watson Pharmaceuticals, which is the first Morris County case listed. If you slowly scroll down the cases, you\'ll see some that might interest you. For example, Docket No. MRS-L-2970-10 is a the Civil Rights case of Rodano v. Morris County. If you read toward the right of the same row, you\'ll see that the case settled on March 8, 2012 (\"ST SCHED TR\" typically means that the case settled when the court scheduled it for trial).
Suppose you\'re interested in finding more about the Rodano case. Then you might want to send the following OPRA request to the records custodian in Morris County:
----begin OPRA request
Please accept this as my request for government records in accordance with the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law right of access. Please respond and send all responsive documents to me via e-mail at [address] Also, I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge your receipt of this request.
I am informed that a civil case captioned Rodano v. Morris County, Docket No. MRS-L-2970-10 may have settled on or about March 8, 2012.
I would like the following records:
1. The most recently amended civil complaint filed in the case (or, I want the original complaint if the complaint was never amended.) I don\'t need summonses, case information sheets, cover letters, etc.
2. The agreement, if one exists, that sets forth the terms and amount of settlement, i.e. the \"settlement agreement\" related to the above cited case.
----end OPRA request
Also, know that you can learn all the parties to the case, exactly which documents were filed and other case information by using New Jersey\'s user-unfriendly on-line search engine. Instructions are on-line here: http://njopengovt.blogspot.com/2011/01/new-jersey-courts-put-civil-index-on.html
Doing this is useful in cases like \"MRS-L-001790-09 VITELLARO VS MAYOR AND TWP COMMITTE \" where you can\'t tell, from the truncated information given, which Township was being sued.
I hope this is useful.
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