NJEA Files Complaint Against Christie; Judge Issues Temporary Order Against Further Posting of Prieto-Shutdown Signs

The NJEA filed a complaint against Governor Christie over the posting of flyers announcing government building closures with Speaker Prieto’s picture on them.  Judge Jacobsen of Mercer Superior Court heard preliminary arguments this afternoon, saying she’ll schedule a hearing on Friday at 2:30pm.

“By their conduct, the Defendants [Governor Christie, State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes, AG Porrino, and the state of NJ] have caused or authorized State resources to be deployed on political messaging, when there is no valid appropriation or executive order in place authorizing the expenditure of state resources on such messaging, contrary to the substantive rights granted to citizens of the State under the state constitution and statutes,” the complaint reads.

“If the posting of the signage is an action of Governor Christie’s, then it belongs in the appellate division.  I’m just giving you the range of the issues in case there’s some other procedural avenue you wish to proceed.  I don’t have staff here other than my court clerk” said Jacobson, juggling her own schedule amid the shutdown. “Obviously its not a lot of time, so we just have to do the best we can so I can get a sense of the standards to apply here, and we’ll go forward.  We’ll go forward Friday, whether the courts or open or not.”

The NJEA didn’t challenge the constitutionality of the executive order itself, but rather the signs which in their complaint label as a political attack on the Speaker.  “I’m not challenging the executive order, I’m challenging the political attacks.  It violates the free speech clause,” said the NJEA’s complainant, Communications Director Steve Baker. “And in terms of these ads not being political, I’d imagine the signs at the courthouse don’t have a picture of a judge or their office phone number saying this building is closed because of this person.”  The complaint also takes issue with the truthfulness of the signs’ announcing certain buildings were closed – noting that both the Statehouse was open as well as Island Beach State Park, by virtue of the Governor’s presence there yesterday.  

In the meantime, the judge ordered a temporary restraining order on any further postings of the same signage the center of the complaint.  On permanent removal of existing signs, Jacobsen said she’s not going to enter an order at this time.  “I’m not going to order to remove the signs unless it’s appropriate.  Would the state will agree not to post any additional signs between now and Friday?”  The state wouldn’t consent.

Photo from the NJEA’s verified complaint

“I am comfortable issuing a restraint prohibiting additional posting of the signs.” said the judge.

“I’m not ordering that they be removed, but I’m trying to prevent any exacerbation of it or anything of constitutional magnitude.  It’s temporary.  I’m not ordering the removal of the current signs, I’m trying to limit what the current situation is”, saying it’s in the interest of the defendant to not post additional signs at the center of the complaint anyway.  “We’ll get the order out,” she ended.  Read the complaint here: NJEA vs. Christie

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