Articles Posted in Election Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether an initiative petition filed under the Optional Municipal Charter Law (known as the Faulkner Act), requiring the City of Camden to create and maintain its own police force, and enjoining the municipality from replacing its police force with a countywide police force, unlawfully restricted the municipality's legislative authority or was preempted by state fiscal statutes. Defendants, a group of City voters acting as a Committee of Petitioners (Committee), attempted to block the regionalization of the City's police services. The Committee invoked the Optional Municipal Charter Law. The Committee submitted an initiative petition for the adoption of a proposed ordinance that would have required the City of Camden to create and maintain its own police force, and would have enjoined the City from disbanding its municipal police force and replacing it with a regionalized or countywide police force. The Committee obtained, on its petition, the number of voter signatures required by the Faulkner Act. It sought to have its initiated ordinance certified by the municipal clerk, considered by the City Council, and, if not enacted by the Council, placed on the ballot for voter approval in the 2012 General Election. Plaintiffs Mayor Dana L. Redd, Camden's Mayor, and Camden's Council President Francisco Moran filed a complaint seeking to enjoin the Committee's Faulkner Act initiative. The trial court found that the proposed ordinance constituted an invalid divestment of the City's legislative authority. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for a determination whether the state fiscal statutes preempt the proposed ordinance. Although the Supreme Court concurred with the Appellate Division that the proposed ordinance does not constitute an improper divestment of the municipal governing body's legislative power, it disagreed with the panel's remand of the case for further inquiry into the question of preemption. The Supreme Court found no evidence of a legislative intent to preempt the initiative and referendum procedure set forth in the Faulkner Act in either the municipal finance or police statutes cited in this appeal. Instead, the Court found a legislative intent in some of the statutes to retain the Faulkner Act's procedures, including its initiative and referendum provisions. Thus, the Committee's Faulkner Act initiative was not preempted. Notwithstanding the Court's holdings that the proposed ordinance neither effected an unlawful divestment of legislative power nor was preempted by state statutes, the relief sought by the Committee in its 2012 petition was not granted in a manner consistent with the Faulkner Act. Because the reorganization that the ordinance was intended to forestall was completed more than two years ago, the ordinance as drafted was inconsistent with then-current circumstances. Accordingly, the ordinance might no longer be supported by all of the citizens who backed it with their signatures, and it could not meaningfully be evaluated by the voters. The presence of an out-of-date ordinance on the ballot would contravene the Faulkner Act's objective that voters be presented with a clear, understandable proposed ordinance that they may accept or reject as they see fit. Accordingly, The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the Appellate Division's judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for entry of a judgment barring the Camden Municipal Clerk from certifying the Committee's petition. View "Redd v. Bowman" on Justia Law

by
In this case, a city clerk in a Faulkner Act municipality refused to accept for filing a petition for referendum on the ground that the petition did not have a sufficient number of qualifying signatures. Members of a Committee of Petitioners brought an action in lieu of prerogative writ to have the challenged ordinance put on the ballot. They also brought suit under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, N.J.S.A. 10:6-2(c). Ultimately, the trial court granted the Committee members the relief they sought, placing the ordinance before the voters and awarding them, as the prevailing party, attorney’s fees for the deprivation of a substantive right protected by the Civil Rights Act. The Appellate Division affirmed all but the trial court’s finding of a civil rights violation. The Appellate Division determined that the Committee members did not suffer a deprivation of a right because the court provided the ultimate remedy - the referendum. Accordingly, the award of attorney’s fees was vacated. Upon review, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed that the city clerk violated the right of referendum guaranteed by the Faulkner Act. Furthermore, the Court held that the violation of that right deprived the Committee members a substantive right protected by the Civil Rights Act. The vindication of that right under the Civil Rights Act entitled the Committee members to an award of attorney’s fees. The Court therefore affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Appellate Division. View "Tumpson v. Farina" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Mazdabrook Commons Homeowner's Association, Inc. manages a common-interest community in which individual owners agree to certain common rules and restrictions for the benefit of the entire group. The Rules and Regulations of the community bar signs except as provided in a "Declaration." Defendant Wasim Khan lived in a planned townhouse community managed by Mazdabrook Commons. In 2005, Defendant ran for Parsippany Town Council and posted two signs in support of his candidacy at his private residence: one inside the window of his townhouse and another inside the door. Mazdabrook notified Defendant that the signs violated the association's rules and ordered their removal. Mazdabrook's regulations banned all residential signs except "For Sale" signs. Upon review, the Supreme Court "balance[ed] the minimal interference with Mazdabrook's private property interest against [Defendant's] free speech right to post political signs on his own property" and found that the sign policy in question violated the free speech clause of the State Constitution. View "Mazdabrook Commons Homeowners' Ass'n v. Khan" on Justia Law

by
The issue on appeal in this case arose from the November 8, 2011 election of Gabriela Mosquera to the fourth Legislative district of the General Assembly. Shelley Lovett, who received the next highest number of votes, challenged the election alleging that Mosquera was ineligible because she failed to meet the one-year durational residency requirement set forth in Article IV, Section 1, Paragraph 2 of the New Jersey Constitution. Complicating the matter was the decision and accompanying order in "Robertson v. Bartels," (150 F. Supp.2d 691 (D.N.J. 2001)), wherein a federal trial court had concluded that the durational residency requirement of the State Constitution violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and had enjoined the New Jersey Attorney General and Secretary of State from enforcing the provision’s one-year durational residency requirement for eligibility for General Assembly office. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that The New Jersey Constitution's durational residency requirement for members of the General Assembly does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; this decision was not a new ruling and the Court therefore declined to limit its judgment to prospective application. Because Mosquera was the incumbent at the time of the vacancy, the Democratic Party, with which Mosquera was affiliated at the time of the election, could select an interim successor for the vacant seat. Further, in construing the vacancy-filling provisions the Court recognized that Mosquera would meet eligibility requirements for appointment as interim successor, if she were selected by her party. View "In re: Contest of November 8, 2011 General Election" on Justia Law