Case Details


Open Records, Relationship To State Agencies, Status In State Government

Filing State



New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division




Paff v. Division of Law, 412 N.J. Super. 140; 988 A.2d 1239; (N.J. Super. 2010)


The New Jersey Appellate Division held that unpublished Administrative Agency Advice (AAA) letters issued by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Division of Law, which interpret the statutes and regulations the Division’s administrative agency clients are required to apply and enforce, are not disclosable government records for purposes of the state Open Records act because they are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Case Description

Under New Jersey law, the Attorney General is the “sole legal adviser” for all state agencies, boards and authorities, and is also responsible for “interpret[ing] all statutes and legal documents” for those clients. N.J.S.A. 52:17A-4(e). The Attorney General issues legal opinions, known as Administrative Agency Advice letters, whenever a State agency requests legal advice. The Attorney General designates some of these AAA letters as “formal” AAAs and releases them publicly. The remaining letters are considered by the Attorney General’s office to be confidential advice, and are not publicly released. Plaintiff requested a list of the topics and indices for all informal AAA letters since 2002. A long line of New Jersey court decisions held that the attorney-client privilege exists for advice given by the Attorney General to state agencies. The court therefore focused on whether the subjects of the AAAs were attorney-client privileged communications. The state argued that the AAAs were “not merely objective analyses of the law, nor “binding opinion[s],” nor “administrative determination[s],” but were rather “advice by the Attorney General to a client, which the client could accept or reject.” The Appellate Division held the AAAs privileged on the grounds that “state agencies requesting legal advice from their attorneys concerning the exercise of the statutory responsibilities they are required by law to discharge are entitled to receive legal advice from their attorneys on a confidential basis.”