Murphy, AG’s office, suing Jersey City over emergency order closing day care centers

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In an effort spearheaded by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and the attorney general’s office, the state is suing Jersey City over its executive order to close certain establishments, arguing the order oversteps state authority by closing local daycare centers.

By Corey McDonald/Hudson County View

The lawsuit, filed on Monday, challenges the city’s March 16th state of emergency order – issued last month – that closed non-essential business establishments since it was not amended to allow day cares to re-open for first responders and health care workers.

Murphy signed an executive order on March 25th allowing daycares to reopen as of April 1st in the event that they were providing care for essential employees, which came four days after issuing a stay-at-home directive superseding all other local orders.

“Essential personnel are a vital part of our response and limiting child care to solely these individuals will assist in flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases, as well as provide our front-line workers with the critical services they need to get through this emergency,” Murphy said in a statement to NJ Globe – who first reported on the court filing last night.

“A lack of child care cannot be a barrier for our essential employees, and while these workers commit themselves to our New Jersey family, we will commit ourselves to protecting their families.”

The City of Jersey City, Mayor Steve Fulop, Chief Municipal Prosecutor Jake Hudnut and the Health and Human Services Director Stacey Flanagan are named as defendants in the matter, while Assistant Attorney General Erin O’Leary is representing the state.

In a Twitter thread this morning, Fulop said the city would be opening day care centers that comply with the governor’s order, but criticized him for “contradict(ing) his previous statements.”

“We’ve said to the Governor that we’ll accommodate ALL front line families that need help but we weren’t willing to just open unlicensed day care centers or centers w/violations as that only puts residents at risk,” he wrote.

“The state is unwilling to provide any information on families that need this service + the city has received zero requests from any residents/unions for this service. The only requests we’ve had are from day care centers looking to receive a stipend from the state program that pays them now to be open.”

The mayor continued that day care centers would reopen today “to not create a distraction” as safety concerns are put on the record, also chiding Murphy for his executive order on non-essential construction which has “tons of exemptions which makes it unenforceable.”

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy made a ruling Monday siding with Trenton officials, forcing Jersey City daycares to reopen until an April 27th court hearing, according to a motion to show cause.

Furthermore, Lougy’s order prevents local authorities and officials from issuing summons until the suit goes through the court system.

“The court having determined that immediate and irreparable damage will probably result before a hearing can be held,” Lougy wrote.

Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_