EMERGENT APPEAL TO DECIDE IF ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD QUESTION GOES TO VOTERS

With less than two weeks until voters go to the polls on Nov. 7, whether City of Orange voters will get to choose an elected school board as opposed to an appointed one is once again in the hands of the courts.

Last November, voters in a public referendum overwhelmingly favored being able to choose their own school board members rather than having them picked by the Mayor, which is the current system. But a state court judge set aside the result, finding they were not provided with sufficient information to understand the ramifications of the change.

Continue reading EMERGENT APPEAL TO DECIDE IF ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD QUESTION GOES TO VOTERS

RESOUNDING WIN FOR GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY

A unanimous decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court has overturned a lower court holding that would have allowed the government to deny access to vast swathes of information kept on its computers. Click here to read the decision.

The lower court had interpreted the state Open Public Records Act, aka OPRA, as mandating public access only to discrete records and not to information per se.

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COURT NIXES RULE LIMITING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

A two-year-old rule that makes it harder to collect unemployment benefits in New Jersey has been struck down in court.

On May 1, a three-judge Appellate Division panel invalidated N.J.A.C. 12:17-2.1 as arbitrary and capricious, finding it illogical and confusing and calling it a “linguistic morass, one that cannot be readily or sensibly understood and applied.”

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NJ APPLESEED FIGHTS FOR OPEN SPACE ON HOBOKEN WATERFRONT

Context of this Case

A battle over whether a developer will be allowed to renege on a promise to provide open space on the Hoboken waterfront was argued before the Appellate Division on February 28.

New Jersey Appleseed’s Renee Steinhagen represents Fund for a Better Waterfront in several related appeals involving the Monarch Towers development.

The dispute concerns whether two 11 -story condominium towers can be built on a nearly two-acre waterfront parcel where the developer promised in 1997 to provide open space, including tennis courts and the final segment of the developer’s Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.

The construction faces fierce public opposition and would violate Hoboken ordinances that prohibit residential development on piers and platforms over the Hudson River. Those ordinances were adopted in December of 2013 in response to Superstorm Sandy, and in conformance with newly adopted federal and state standards to protect communities from flood hazards.

Read below about this case and NJ Appleseed’s work: Ron Hine reports for the Fund for a Better Waterfront.

Continue reading NJ APPLESEED FIGHTS FOR OPEN SPACE ON HOBOKEN WATERFRONT

RULE PROTECTING RETIREMENT INVESTMENTS SURVIVES COURT CHALLENGES.

UPDATE: Since this article was posted, District Judge Crabtree in the Kansas case followed the lead of Judge Lynn on February 17, granting summary judgment for the Department of Labor and denying a cross motion by  plaintiff Market Synergy Group, which sought to block the rule.

Just days after Donald Trump took steps to derail a rule meant to protect retirement investments, a federal court decision has bolstered hopes for its survival.

The regulation, known as the fiduciary rule, was adopted by the Department of Labor (DOL) last April and took effect in June 2016. Compliance was to start on April 10 of this year, with some aspects of the rule not set to kick in until 2018.

The rule requires financial advisers to act in the best interest of the clients who pay them for their professional advice and prohibits them from recommending or selling inferior or more costly investments that will garner them higher commissions.

Continue reading RULE PROTECTING RETIREMENT INVESTMENTS SURVIVES COURT CHALLENGES.

NEW HEARING IN CHRISTIE CRIMINAL CASE, ECHOES OF BARLYN SUIT

The criminal case against Governor Chris Christie over the Bridgegate lane-closing scandal met with a setback on January 12 when a state judge sent it back down to municipal court for a new hearing on probable cause.

Bergen County Assignment Judge Bonnie Mizdol vacated the probable cause determination made last October by Roy McGeady, the county’s Presiding Municipal Judge, on the ground that Christie was denied his constitutional right to counsel.

Continue reading NEW HEARING IN CHRISTIE CRIMINAL CASE, ECHOES OF BARLYN SUIT

NEW JERSEY JUSTICES ASKED TO HEAR LANDMARK VOTER REGISTRATION CASE

UPDATE: Since this article was written, the New Jersey Supreme Court has denied an appeal, leaving the issue for the Legislature to address.

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Permitting Election Day Registration for Voters

In a test case with nation-wide implications, the New Jersey Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether it is constitutional to require voters to register prior to Election Day now that electronic voter databases have made it much easier and faster to determine eligibility.

The plaintiffs in Rutgers Student Assembly v. Middlesex County Board of Elections seek to convince the Court to strike down the New Jersey law requiring that voters to  register at least 21 days before an election.

Continue reading NEW JERSEY JUSTICES ASKED TO HEAR LANDMARK VOTER REGISTRATION CASE

COURT ORDER DO-OVER ON PINELANDS PIPELINE APPROVAL

A lot of attention has been focused on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry crude oil across four western states, damaging the environment and disturbing Native American historical and cultural sites.

Similar battles over proposed pipelines are taking place right here in New Jersey and recent developments will at least delay two of those projects and hopefully allow for more public input on their impact.

Continue reading COURT ORDER DO-OVER ON PINELANDS PIPELINE APPROVAL

Voting Rights Groups Call for Election Day Registration

Plaintiffs

Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic, ACLU-NJ, and New Jersey Appleseed File Appellate Brief Arguing State Cannot Justify 21-Day Registration Blackout Contact: Deborah Howlett, ACLU-NJ Communications Director, 973-854-1728 Allison Peltzman, ACLU-NJ Senior Communications Specialist, 973-854-1711 Professor Frank Askin, Rutgers School of Law-Newark, 973-353-3239 Renee Steinhagen, New Jersey Appleseed, 973-735-0523

Continue reading Voting Rights Groups Call for Election Day Registration

NJ Appleseed scores major victory for fair elections and exposes the practice of “vote harvesting”

Re-post from HudsonReporter.com | Written by Dean DeChiaro

When the Mile Square Taxpayers Association, a group of developers and landlords long opposed to Hoboken’s tenant-friendly rent control codes, withdrew a legal challenge to the results of a November referendum last week, they conceded a victory to tenants who want to keep rent control in place. But it had another effect – it shined a light on a dubious election practice that has plagued Hoboken politics for years.

The court proceedings, in which MSTA attempted to argue that the Hudson County Board of Elections should not have invalidated around 300 vote-by-mail ballots, placed a microscope on those types of ballots, which have long been a source of controversy here.

For years, political organizations have influenced elections in advance by sending workers into senior citizen and low-income housing buildings to encourage residents to fill out absentee ballots. Seven years ago, the state made it easier for people to fill out ballots by mail by allowing people to do so without having to give a reason.

Read more: Hudson Reporter – Hoboken’s legacy of vote by mail schemes Rent control referendum results stand and shed light on dubious election pastime