In the mid-2000s, the Atlantic City casinos owned by Donald Trump owed nearly $30 million in overdue taxes to the state of New Jersey. Shortly after Chris Christie became governor in 2011, the State accepted $5 million, or about 17 cents on the dollar, in full settlement of its claim for back taxes. The Clinic is currently representing Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist Russ Buettner at the New York Times in his effort to obtain information about the role of the governor and his office in ceding about $25 million in back taxes to the Trump Organization.
The Clinic requested information from multiple New Jersey agencies, asserting both statutory and common law rights to the information. The requests yielded large numbers of responsive documents, but the State asserted numerous privileges and refused to disclose them.
Over the past three semesters, students have engaged in extensive negotiations with New Jersey regarding the production of the withheld documents and initiated a summary proceeding to compel disclosure. With the assistance of local counsel, MFIA filed suit under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA), fully briefed the issues, and advocated for Mr. Buettner’s right to information in court on July 18, 2019. The Court is currently conducting an in-camera review of several key documents to determine whether information has been properly withheld.