CAMDEN, NJ — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today scored a significant victory in its legal efforts to end racial profiling when a court refused to dismiss a claim that state officials acted with deliberate indifference to evidence of discrimination against minority motorists.
"This is an important step forward in our effort to hold the state and its leadership responsible for victimizing minorities," said Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. "New Jersey has worn the stain of racial profiling for too long. It is time for victims to have their day in court and for the state to make amends to those targeted by police solely because of their skin color."
The ruling, issued today by United States District Court Judge Joel Pisano, permits the ACLU's clients to move forward in their racial profiling lawsuit against, among others, former Attorney General and current New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero and former Superintendent of State Police Clinton Pagano, both of whom had asked the court to dismiss the claims against them.
New Jersey officials first admitted to racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike in a report released on April 20, 1999. The report showed that racial profiling practices in New Jersey are not just a perception. "The evidence we have compiled clearly shows that the problem is real," officials acknowledged in the report. The report attributed the targeting of African American and Latino drivers to troopers who abused their positions by disregarding the rights of minority motorists.
The ACLU lawsuit, White v. Williams, involves minority motorists who were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike based on racial profiling practices by the state police. ACLU clients include Dr. Elmo Randolph, a dentist who drives a luxury car and has been stopped by police approximately 100 times without ever receiving a ticket. Dr. Randolph was subjected to searches of his car and interrogations about his profession and how and where he bought his car on numerous occasions.