Earlier this week the Latino Action Network joined with the Women’s Political Caucus, Latinas United for Political Empowerment – Political Action Committee, New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association, Latino Coalition of Monmouth County, and Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO to file an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in In re Contest of November 8, 2011 General Election of Office of New Jersey General Assembly, Fourth Legislative District, the New Jersey Supreme Court case in which Gabriela Mosquera’s election as 4th District Assemblywoman in November 2011 is being challenged despite her having won more votes than her opponents.
On Wednesday, January 26, 2012 we heard that the Supreme Court has accepted our amicus brief.
One of her opponents, Shelley Lovett, argues that because Ms. Mosquera moved to the 4th District 11 months prior to the election, she violated a requirement in the New Jersey Constitution that all candidates must live in their district for at least a year. However, a federal judge back in 2002 had held that provision invalid under the United States Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. As such the Secretary of State (Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno) had told Ms. Mosquera that she could run for office, without challenge, and in fact every candidate since 2002 has been told the same thing.
We made three arguments:
1. The state government can’t violate a federal court injunction (here the order saying that the residency provision was invalid) and so they were right in telling Gabriela Mosquera that she could run for office. This is the basic principle from many of the great cases of the Civil Rights Movement on school integration: the federal courts’ interpretation of the U.S. Constitution has to be obeyed by state officials.
2. If the state government wanted to change that interpretation, they should go back to the same court. It’s not allowed – or fair – to go to one court and get one decision, and try to undermine it by going to a different court.
3. The court should respect the will of the voters in electing Gabriela Mosquera, who reasonably voted for her in part because the Secretary of State said she met all the requirements to run. To invalidate this election is tossing away their votes. That’s especially problematic given that both Latinos and women are dramatically underrepresented in the New Jersey Legislature.
The Supreme Court has accepted our brief and asked the other participants to respond to our arguments either in writing or during their argument on Friday. To our knowledge, we are the only amicus group to have filed in this case. The only other participants are the two candidates and the Attorney General’s office. Our involvement helps the Supreme Court see the big picture – how this case has impacts beyond this particular election to the respect for court orders in civil rights cases, the fair representation of all people in the New Jersey Legislature, and the willingness of people of color and women to run for office.
You can watch the arguments this Friday at 10 am online or in person. Online you can watch here: http://www.judiciary.state.nj…. (the screen will probably be blank up until the argument starts so you may have to refresh).
The Latino Action Network was founded in 2009 to fight for political empowerment and defend civil rights. It is the largest statewide advocacy organization dedicated to championing issues of concern to the Latino community. To learn more about LAN, visit us at www.LatinoActionNetwork.org.