Representing protesters in a lawsuit brought by the Hudson County Executive, the ACLU of New Jersey today won dismissal of an initial order imposing strict limitations on their right to protest. The initial order followed peaceful demonstrations held in December 2020 opposing the county’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The ACLU-NJ defended the protesters, arguing that the restraints severely undermine First Amendment rights, including the right of speech, right of assembly, and right to petition the Government.
In DeGise v. Torres, Hudson County Executive Thomas DeGise and several Hudson County Commissioners – who all supported an extension of the now-terminated ICE contract to hold people in the county jail – filed a lawsuit to block the protests on the public sidewalk outside of DeGise’s house, after law enforcement officers repeatedly characterized them as “calm.” The county commissioners voluntarily dismissed their claims, but DeGise remained a party to the case.
Today’s dismissal from Judge Jeffrey R. Jablonski, the Superior Court Assignment Judge for Hudson County, lifts the previous limitations on protesters, including:
- Protests could occur only between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. once every two weeks
- Protesters had to provide 24 hours’ notice to law enforcement, including the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, prior to protesting
- Protesters could not come within 200 feet of the commissioners’ homes, and for County Executive DeGise they were relegated to a specific street corner in Jersey City that is out of sight from the County Executive’s residence
- Demonstrations were restricted to 10 people
Four people were arrested under the initial order. They were represented by the ACLU of New Jersey and their criminal cases were dismissed. Frank Corrado of Barry, Corrado, & Grassi, P.C. represented three additional defendants pro bono after Hudson County officials added them to the civil case. All of the defendants’ cases have been dismissed.
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU-NJ Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero:
“The rights to speak and to protest are protected by the Constitution, and dissent has been foundational to our democracy. We hope that the Court’s thorough opinion, issued after lengthy and costly litigation, will serve as a reminder to elected officials throughout New Jersey that efforts to silence dissent and punish opposing viewpoints will not succeed. Our clients protested for a cause they believe in; our democracy is stronger because of their participation.”