A 'Sign' of the Times

The Lakewood Municipal Court has convicted ACLU-NJ client Arie Edery of violating New Jersey's “harassment” statute by posting a sign on his property expressing displeasure over a court decision granting an easement on the property to a neighbor. Edery, who is Jewish, argued in his sign that his neighbor, a Rabbi, had violated Jewish law in obtaining the easement.

The state law in question broadly defines “harassment” as making “a communication or communications anony-mously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm.” Given the facts of the case, the only basis for the conviction was the “annoyance” experienced by the complainant.

Cooperating attorney Richard Stanzione argued in Municipal Court that Edery's speech was protected under the First Amendment, and that if the statute were read to apply to this conduct it would be unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. We also argued that causing annoyance through expressions of opinion cannot constitute a crime. ACLU volunteer attorney Steve Latimer will handle the appeal in Superior Court.

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