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Law Requiring Nonprofits to Disclose Private Supporter Information Will Not Be Enforced, in First Amendment Victory

March 11, 2020

Agreement makes permanent the preliminary injunction imposed by the District Court, ensures New Jersey will not enforce S150

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today announced that a federal judge has approved an agreement with the Office of the Attorney General of New Jersey that permanently halts the enforcement of S150, a law intended to force a range of advocacy organizations to disclose their donors and nonpartisan voter education activities.

“This court order halts the enforcement of a law that hindered the freedom of assembly, hampered the right to petition government, and compromised privacy rights,” said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero. “All nonprofits should be able to communicate about issues of public concern without fear of being subject to invasive disclosure rules.”

As it was written, the donor disclosure requirement of S150 targeted all 501(c)(4) organizations, both partisan and nonpartisan. Hundreds of advocacy and social welfare organizations would have been subject to onerous restrictions, regardless of whether the organization played any role in electoral campaigns.

“We’re grateful to the Attorney General’s office for recognizing the danger in unconstitutionally targeting advocacy groups under the guise of transparency,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha. “We welcome the opportunity to work with lawmakers in crafting legislation that will achieve transparency goals while also protecting the civil liberties of all New Jerseyans.”

The ACLU-NJ and the national ACLU filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court on Sept. 10, 2019, challenging S150 as an overly broad law that jeopardizes free speech and free association. A similar lawsuit was filed by Americans for Prosperity and in that case, the District Court granted a preliminary injunction, issuing an opinion characterizing S150 as “facially unconstitutional.” On Oct. 23, a similar injunction was issued in the ACLU-NJ case. On March 11, that injunction became permanent with a judge’s signature.

Categories: Privacy, Free Speech

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