Attorneys from ACLU-NJ have filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that limited U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) protests outside Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise’s home late last year after a judge granted temporary restraints.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“This case is about the people’s right to speak and protest against a government policy. Our clients were using public sidewalks to express themselves and should be subject to the same laws as everyone else who uses them,” ACLU-NJ Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero said in a statement early this afternoon.
“These officials went to court to insulate themselves from opposing views. It’s not just a misuse of public resources, it’s also unconstitutional.”
The December 8th temporary restraining order, granted by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jablonski – who has since become the county assignment judge – included a number of specific parameters if protests were to continue, as HCV first reported.
For example, the protests can’t exceed 10 people, protesters cannot come with 200 feet of the county executive’s property, picketing can only occur between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., protests can only take place once every two weeks, and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office must be notified 24 hours prior to the start of any protest – among other things.
Four people ended up being arrested and charged with contempt on the same day that Jablonski issued the TRO.
The 69-page brief argues that the TRO and proposed injunction are not content neutral, burdens far more free speech than necessary to serve the government’s interest, plaintiffs’ residential privacy issues do not justify an injunction in this case, and also burdens speech beyond what is directed at the county executive.
Furthermore, the ACLU argues that the five defendants, Amy Torres, Stacey Gregg, Kason Little, Marisa Budnick, and Anand Sarwate, have faced adverse impacts since the TRO was implemented.
“The protesters have reported threats, hostilities, and embarrassment as a result of the TRO,” the legal brief says.
“The five named Defendants have all experienced restrictions on their rights to speech and assembly, as well as a broader chilling effect on these rights, since they have not participated in protests and demonstrations that they would have attended absent the TRO.”
According to ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha, there is no freedom of speech for these defendants as long as the TRO remains in effect.
“With these extreme restrictions in place, it’s clear that for this targeted group of people, speech is no longer free. Government officials cannot single out one cause to silence. Hudson County officials cannot criminalize views they oppose and silence opponents of the ICE contract throughout the entire county.”
The other plaintiffs in the case are County Commissioners Al Cifelli, Caridad Rodriguez, Anthony Romano, Kenny Kopacz, and Anthony Vainieri – the board chairman.
All five, along with County Commissioner Jerry Walker, voted in favor of renewing the county’s ICE contract for up to 10 years at a marathon meeting back in November.
This evening, DeGise told HCV he’s feeling confident the plaintiffs will prevail ahead of a court hearing scheduled for next month.
“I believe May 14th is the date of the hearing and we’ll see what happens. We’re confident, but their argument – I’m not a lawyer – it’s pretty ridiculous,” DeGise said this evening.
” … They have a right to protest, but the people on New York Avenue, me and my wife, have a right to privacy and peace and quiet. All these out-of-towners coming in the dead of night crosses the line as does yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre, thus a judge has limited their right. ”
Editor’s note: This story was updated with a comment from Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise.