With Hudson County’s agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) coming to an end, the ACLU is again seeking to dismiss County Executive Tom DeGise’s lawsuit limiting protests outside his home.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
The 69-page brief, filed in Hudson County Superior Court on Friday, asserts that with Hudson phasing out their ICE contract in the next month in favor of a new reentry program with Union County inmates, the potential harm DeGise cited back in December no longer exists.
” … Plaintiff cannot meet the burden required to justify permanent restraints. DeGise does not need injunctive relief. Jersey City’s legislators have already crafted neutral ordinances designed to protect residential privacy that provide sufficient protection for DeGise,” writes ACLU attorneys Jeanne LoCicero, Alexander Shalom, Molly Linhorst, and Shira Wisotsky.
“Furthermore, DeGise has decided to terminate Hudson County’s participation in the ICE contract – the only subject of Defendants’ protests. Plaintiff can therefore no longer claim that he faces ongoing harm.”
Back in December, a Hudson County judge ruled in DeGise’s favor, granting temporary restraints that only allowed protests of up to 10 people, which cannot come within 200 feet of his Jersey City Heights home, and also can only take place once every two weeks between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. – if the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office is given 24-hour notice.
At the time, the majority of Hudson County commissioner, then still freeholders, were also plaintiffs in the case, but have since voluntarily dropped out of the case.
April was the first time the ACLU tried to get the case dismissed, claiming that it was unconstitutional, as well as a misuse of public resources. Today, LoCicero is echoing that sentiment.
“The rights to speak and to protest are protected by the Constitution, and dissent has been foundational to our democracy,” LoCicero, the legal director of ACLU New Jersey, said in a statement.
“In this case, County Executive DeGise misused his access to public resources and law enforcement to obtain a court order against his own constituents with the intent to silence opposing viewpoints. This misuse of power cannot go unchecked.”
Defendant Hector Oseguera, one of four people who were charged with contempt for violating the court order late last year, also denounced the county for opting not proceed with litigation.
“Given the County’s capitulation on the ICE contract, this lawsuit’s continuation is a waste of taxpayer dollars and an assault on our First Amendment rights. The County Executive should abandon this anti-democratic crusade, lest he taste defeat twice on the same issue,” he told HCV.
A county spokesman declined to comment on pending litigation.