Republican County Chairs Slam Unconstitutional Gopal Bill 

Republican County Chairs Slam Unconstitutional Gopal Bill 

The Republican County Chairs listed below issue the following statement with regard to the New Jersey Legislature’s consideration of S3838/A5429:

This bill unconstitutionally targets Sheriffs, County Clerks and Surrogates and seeks to take from them the right to maintain political associations and assume positions of leadership in the furtherance of political beliefs.

It has been sixty-five years since our United State Supreme Court made clear that association for political purposes is worthy of the highest protection under the Constitution. The Supreme Court said, “It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the ‘liberty’ assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech.” It is beyond dispute that leadership in the context of political association is as highly protected, if not more so, than general political association. If not, then the whims of political opponents who have wrested control of Legislative and Executive power will be allowed to dictate who can lead in the political arena. Allowing such a construct would wreak havoc with our political party system and represent a threat to democracy itself. When Legislators get to enact legislation on a whim to remove opposition political leaders, we are all headed toward a terrible and broken system of dictatorial fiat. While County Surrogates have elements of their work that are overseen by the Judiciary and thus voluntarily subject themselves to certain limitations, Sheriffs and County Clerks are subject to no such oversight and should not have their Constitutional rights capriciously ripped from them by an overreaching State Legislature.

These issues are beyond partisan interests. Setting the precedent that the awesome power of the Legislative and Executive branches of state government will be used to arbitrarily target and remove a County Sheriff in Republican leadership, will no doubt lead to that power being utilized by either Party to remove any opposition leader they so choose, based on the slimmest and most indefensible justification. This bill is undemocratic and unAmerican. It will be a sad and dangerous day in New Jersey indeed when partisan players in state government can outlaw the opposition’s political leaders.

The introduction to this bill preemptively, and unpersuasively, attempts to mask its gross partisan and unconstitutional intent and to further hide the fact that the Sponsor’s goal is the targeted removal from political leadership of a single New Jersey and United States citizen: Chairman Shaun Golden of Monmouth County. The question before the Legislative Judiciary Committees in this moment is whether or not their members are prepared to ignore the First Amendment’s inherent protection of freedom of association, or instead run the Constitution through the State House shredder in order to destroy the rights of Chairman Golden.

In a highly ironic twist, the Assembly Judiciary Committee agenda for Thursday, May 18, 2023, includes not only consideration of ending Constitutional freedom of association rights via S3838/A5429, it also includes consideration of A4393, the “Uniform Public Expression Protection Act,” which “provides for expedited motion and process for dismissal of ‘Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.’” If only such an act were passed to apply to the Legislature itself so that this tyrannical majority could be stopped in its blatant effort to crush public expression.

At a time when New Jersey children face unprecedented levels of mental health and substance abuse issues; New Jersey families struggle under a punishing tax burden, New Jersey school standards are being lowered to allow failing schools to shuffle students through, New Jersey energy policy is muddled and incongruous and leading to higher energy costs for families, the Governor is buying $200,000 worth of taxpayer-funded rugs, the Democrat-controlled Legislature wants to spend its time trampling the Constitution. No wonder a recent poll found that 80% of New Jerseyans believe that politicians are corrupt. If the Democrats in the Legislature allow this corrupt bill to make it out of Committee, that 80% of New Jerseyans will be proven correct when it comes to the New Jersey Democrats.

We urge the Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committees to do the right thing, the Constitutional thing, the only appropriate thing under the circumstances: Kill this bill in Committee and leave it on the ash heap of historically terrible bills where it belongs.

Chairman Don Purdy Atlantic County

Chairman Sean Earlen Burlington County

Chairman Tom Crone Camden County

Chairman Michael Donohue Cape May County

Chairman Gabe Plummer Hunterdon County

Chairman Robert Bengivenga, Jr. Middlesex County

Chairman Shaun Golden Monmouth County

Chairwoman Laura Ali Morris County

Chairman Peter Murphy Passaic County

Chairman Linwood Donelson Salem County

Chairman Jerry Scanlan Sussex County

Chairman Glen Mortimer Union County

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