Scarinci Hollenbeck Achieves Significant Victory on Behalf of the Town of West New York
April 2, 2014
Attorney Sean Dias Successfully Argues Case after Order to Show Cause was Filed in Connection with Scheduling of School Board Elections.
A team of lawyers at Scarinci Hollenbeck led by partner Robert E. Levy, Esq., chair of the litigation group and Sean Dias, Esq., counsel, recently won a significant victory in the New Jersey Superior Court on behalf of the Town of West New York, regarding the scheduling of school board elections. Mr. Dias argued the case on behalf of the Town. New Jersey Superior Court Assignment Judge Peter Bariso dismissed Plaintiff’s lawsuit with prejudice and held that the Town complied with the school law election notice requirement set forth in N.J.S.A. 19:60-1.1 (c).
In New Jersey, annual school elections are set by statute to occur on the third Tuesday in April. By law, the Commissioner of Education is authorized to change the annual school election date (the third Tuesday in April) if that date coincides with “a period of religious observance.” Due to an event in the 2014 calendar, the election date coincided with a period of religious observance. As a result, the Commissioner of Education changed the annual school election from April 15, 2014 (the third Tuesday in April) to Wednesday, April 23, 2014.
Pursuant to recent election law, the Town adopted a resolution moving the annual school election from Wednesday, April 23, 2014, to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Prior to moving a school election to November, N.J.S.A. 19:60-1.1 (c) requires that the municipality must provide “no less than 60 days” notice to the County Clerk that it has passed such a resolution. The Town provided more than 60 days notice to the County Clerk prior to the original April 23, 2014 school election date.
Plaintiff, Francisco Ferreiro, filed an Order to Show Cause against the Town arguing that the Town failed to provide timely notice to the County Clerk. Ferreiro argued that the 60 days notice ran from the third Tuesday in April (April 15, 2014) and not from the April 23, 2014, school election date. Plaintiff’s requested remedy was to move the annual school election from November 2014 back to April 23, 2014.
The Town relied on the seminal New Jersey Supreme Court case of New Jersey Democratic Party, Inc. v. Samson, 175 N.J. 172 (2002). In that case, the Court set forth principles that a reviewing Court should construe the election law under review “so as to preserve the paramount right of the voters to exercise the franchise.” Judge Bariso ruled that he was guided by and bound by New Jersey Supreme Court decisions, particularly New Jersey Democratic Party, Inc. v. Samson when interpreting whether there is compliance with the election law under review. The Judge refused to apply a strict and rigid interpretation of N.J.S.A. 19:60-1.1 (c), and he held that a reasonable interpretation of the notice requirement in the statute is that the time to notify the County Clerk runs from the time of the actual annual school election date of April 23, 2014, and not from the third Tuesday in April of 2014.
Partner Robert E. Levy is chair of the firm’s litigation group and is a certified civil and criminal trial attorney. Sean Dias, is a member of the firm’s labor & employment and public law groups. Both Mr. Levy and Mr. Dias are frequent contributors to the Government and Law Blog and Business Law News Blog.