First Amendment Violations Abound

Various municipalities around the state have dusted off the old ordinance books and stirred up a rash of First Amendment violations. The ACLU-NJ is representing a number of people who are being prosecuted under ordinances, mostly aimed at regulating leafleting, that clearly violate their First Amendment rights.

State v. Kobryn Mr. Kobryn received a number of citations under anti-leafleting ordinance in the town of Clark. Some of the citations were being prosecuted by the town of Clark and some where being prosecuted by the Mayor of Clark, himself, pro se. The ordinances purported to prohibit leafleting in public, at homes, and on cars. After the ACLU-NJ filed a motion to dismiss in the case, arguing that the ordinances were unconstitutional, the town of Clark announced that the charges against Mr. Kobryn would be dropped and ordinances would be repealed and redrafted. The Mayor chose to continue to prosecute his case against Mr. Kobryn, arguing that Mr. Kobryn's leafleting at his house violated the town's ordinance and constituted harassment. The court has ruled that the ordinance regarding leafleting at private homes was unconstitutional but has scheduled a hearing on the harassment charge. The ACLU-NJ will defend Mr. Kobryn at this hearing arguing that simply leafleting a person's house does not constitute harassment under the state statute.

State v. Smith Ms. Smith is an organizer for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who received a citation in Belmar for "distributing printed material." Belmar's ordinance purports to prohibit the distribution of any printed material on the boardwalk or the adjacent street. The ACLU-NJ is defending Ms. Smith, arguing that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it prohibits leafleting in a traditional public forum.

State v. Mele Mr. Mele has also been charged in Belmar for posting stickers regarding the National Alliance. Mr. Mele was initially charged with violating the same statue as Ms. Smith was, however, Belmar has changed the charge against him to a violation of an ordinance that prohibits the distribution of advertisements.

State v. Sorber Mr. Sorber was charged in Roselle with violating an ordinance that prohibits distributing leaflets without first registering with the police. The ACLU-NJ is defending Mr. Sorber, arguing that the ordinance is a prior restraint and a violation of Mr. Sorber's right to anonymous speech. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, the leaflet that Mr. Sorber was distributing was critical of the police and encouraged citizens to attend the city council meeting and voice their dissatisfaction with the police department.

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