NJ Superior Court, Appellate Division/ Amicus

Frank Corrado/Barry Corrado Grassi & Gibson

The ACLU-NJ has agreed to appear as amicus in this free-speech injunction case. An animal-rights group was enjoined from protesting within a certain distance of individuals’ homes, although there are no restrictions regarding protests around the plaintiffs’ businesses. The trial judge reached his decision under an improper analysis. On appeal, the ACLU-NJ addressed the proper analysis to be followed.The mission of Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC) is to shut down testing at Huntington Life Sciences (HLS). On their website and in protests, they target not only HLS, but companies who do business with HLS and the presidents and managers of those companies (“secondary targets”). Those secondary businesses and some of their employees brought suit to enjoin SHAC and other animal-rights activists.A number of illegal activities have occurred that SHAC officials say were not done by them. Houses have been broken into, credit cards stolen, property destroyed, etc. Also, activists have confronted the children of HLS and secondary target employees at their schools, engaged in hang-up phone calls late at night, held legitimate protests, left flyers on cars in the secondary targets’ parking lots, etc. What SHAC clearly does do is post on their website anonymous messages from the folks who claim to have committed those acts. The site further clearly endorses activities to stop HLS. The court neither found that SHAC or its leaders engaged in the illegal activities or that SHAC “directs” the actions of the activists who undertook illegal acts “within the scope of their actual or apparent authority” from SHAC. Had the court been able to find as such, the court could have rightly entered an injunction. However, the judge did not enter an injunction based on that analysis. Rather, he found that SHAC incited “imminent lawlessness.” For the factual basis, he relied on the fact that SHAC “endorsed” illegal activities and posted information about the illegal activity, which the court said thereby encouraged more illegal activity. The ACLU-NJ argues that allowing an injunction to issue based on individuals’ “endorsement” of other people’s illegal activities, is improper and a violation of free speech and freedom of the press.