Tag Archive: Ed Barocas

Statement of ACLU-NJ Acting Director Ed Barocas

For more on what ACLU-NJ was doing in court today, see this diary.

Posted by ACLU-NJ on Facebook:

Statement from ACLU-NJ Acting Executive Director Ed Barocas on the Essex County Superior Court decision not to allow federal absentee ballots for New Jersey voters displaced by Hurricane Sandy:

“We are disappointed that the judge denied our petition. Although we understand these are unusual circumstances that the Lieutenant Governor and the Division of Elections are dealing with, our concern was with how it was being implemented at the county level. Because of the large volume of complaints from voters who were not getting a response to their email or fax requests for ballots, we would’ve liked to have another method that provided more assurance that the votes of displaced New Jersey residents would be counted.

The remedy that we offered was one that is familiar to New Jersey elections officials and that can be used by overseas residents and members of our military who are serving overseas.”

Police Tape: ACLU-NJ police accountability app now for iPhone & iPad

imageDownload this right now. You may need it someday. And it’s free.

ACLU-NJ just made their police accountability app available for Apple products iPhone & iPad. The app – called Police Tape – allows people to securely, discreetly record and store interactions with police. ACLU-NJ Executive Director Ed Barocas:

“Too often incidents of serious misconduct go unreported because citizens don’t feel that they will be believed. Here, the technology empowers citizens to place a check on police power directly.”

How does it work?

In an incident with police, activate the app. In stealth mode, the screen goes black while recording; police cannot see that you’re recording or stop you. You can store the encounter on your device and also send it directlly to ACLU-NJ which can store it safely and analyze it for civil rights violations. It’s free via app developer OpenWatch.  

More than 35,000 have downloaded the Police Tape app since its first release in July for Android. New Jersey law allows citizens to record the actions of police officers in public, even without their knowledge. The app is designed for use in this state. (Read more about how courts have upheld citizen recording in public here. Download Police Tape for Android & Apple here).  

Election Day News Roundup & Open Thread for Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011

Today’s the Day!

Vote Today 

 Shuffling the Deck Chairs

 Other Political News

 Christie is Consistent in his Inconsistency

 Victory in the Battle of Trenton

 Education

The Next Election

 I Miss NJN

 New Jersey Parks

 New Jersey Roads

 Is Scarlet Fever the Cure for Penn State’s Offense?

 The Chutzpah Award goes to…

 

 

 

Occupy Trenton: Waiting For Redress of Grievances

We are still awaiting an Occupy Trenton ruling from Judge Mary Jacobson of the Mercer County Superior Court. This ruling will follow the hearing on Wednesday between Occupy Trenton and Alexander Higgins, as plaintiffs, v. Raymond Zawacki (Department of Military and Veterans Affairs), Rick Fuentes (NJ State Police), and John Does 1-11, as defendants. The heart of the suit deals with the legality of both the rules the State Troopers are enforcing at the World War II Memorial park and of the troopers’ seizure of Occupy Trenton (OT) property.

Even with a ruling in OT’s favor, occupants will be subject to applicable statutes or ordinances such as prohibiting destruction of property, city noise ordinances, obstruction ordinances, etc. Nationally police have used a variety of tactics against occupiers, particularly when their numbers are large and they engage in demonstrations. OT has not launched a demonstration, rarely has more than 20 people in the venue at any one time, and maintains a civil relationship with both local and state police. Nonetheless, even with a victory it is likely that participants have not seen the last of police interference.

Being able to erect temporary tent shelter for this 24/7 occupation is critical as winter cold and even snow now appear imminent. Having access to electricity (they now use a gas generator) is important in maintaining their livestream and in providing creature comforts like hot coffee. As items of value were seized by State Troopers, occupants naturally seek their return.  

Lead attorney Bennet Zurofsky for Occupy Trenton (OT) in his brief argued that there are no permit requirements to use at the park, nor are there any regulations or restrictions pertaining to use of the park which OT occupies. Indeed, as recently as August 8 NJ-Can, which planned a demonstration there, was informed there was no permit requirement nor restriction on tables or erecting a canopy, except for cleaning up afterward and showing respect for the facility. Nonetheless, on October 14 State Troopers used a letter from Mr. Zawacki, setting forth never before existing restrictions on use of the park, as the basis for removing all “unattended” items, referring to them as “trash.” (The letter curiously has been removed from its internet site here.)  Workmen under supervision of troopers (the John Does) spent about an hour removing almost everything there, including food, first-aid items, literature, and media equipment.

Attorney Zurofsky, working with ACLU NJ, its Legal Director Ed Barocas, and with David Perry Davis, asserted that by imposing new invalid restrictions upon OT and by seizing its property, the State had violated OT’s rights to due process and had infringed on its freedom of assembly. He said, “The State was making up rules over a property for which they don’t even have authority. Time, manner and place of restrictions can’t be made up as you go along.” By seizing and confiscating signs and media equipment, Mr. Zurofsky further argued the State had unlawfully interfered with OT’s right to free speech. He cited OT’s use of livestreaming and the need for media equipment to do so as an important part of its free speech. In the brief OT seeks  relief to include a declaration that the restrictions and prohibitions contained in the Zawocki letter are invalid and unenforceable and that all seized items be returned.

The Defendant attorney Robert Lougy for the State failed in an attempt to transfer the case from Superior Court to the Appellate Division. He argued in his brief that the guidelines governing the use of the property are reasonable, do not constrain freedom of assembly, comport with due process and allow freedom of speech. He further asserted that the public’s interest weighed against the plaintiff’s harming and denigrating the State property and that no irreparable harm had been done to OT.

Tomorrow is National Occupy Your State Capitol Day. OT events will start at 12pm, with a seminar at 2pm on how to set up your own Occupation. You can spend part of your Saturday in Trenton across from the State House while simultaneously supporting some of our most important constitutional rights.

 

Occupy Trenton’s Day in Court (video)

Yesterday, we saw the results of a statewide poll that by overwhelming numbers New Jerseyans support the Jersey participants of Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Philly. Both OWS, the granddaddy of the now worldwide Occupy phenomenon and its Philadelphia counterpart have been going on for weeks. But so too has Occupy Trenton, with just a fraction of the participants of both those cities or of Occupy Albany in the capitol city of our neighboring state.

But the Trenton occupiers have also been maintaining a round-the-clock presence at the World War II Memorial across West State Street from the NJ State House. And their right to be there, to exercise their right of free speech there, is at the center of a court case (which we covered here and here) the ACLU has taken on their behalf.

We may hear Judge Mary Jacobson’s ruling as early as today. Meanwhile, here’s a 10-min. video I shot in the early evening light on the day Occupy Trenton went to court. I’m not our best videographer, but you’ll hear from all three lawyers, Bennet Zurofsky, David Perry Davis and ACLU-NJ legal director Ed Barocas, and some of the Trenton occupiers.

Like any free speech case, though the numbers are smaller at Occupy Trenton, the implications of the State’s effort to shut them down, are much, much larger. We’ll bring you the Judge’s decision soon as we hear.

Free Speech vs. “Aesthetics”: Occupy Trenton Goes to Court

In Trenton today, just blocks from where people protesting economic inequity are in Day 21 of their occupation, ACLU-NJ went to court to protect their freedom of speech. The occupiers were the plaintiffs before Judge Mary Jacobson. I was a couple rows behind their lawyers, ACLU-NJ Legal Director Ed Barocas, and ACLU cooperating attorneys Bennet Zurofsky and David Perry Davis.

“They’re making it up!” Zurofsky said repeatedly about the  restrictions the State is putting on the occupiers. Zurofsky   argued that the rules the state is imposing on the occupiers didn’t exist before, and were concocted when the State saw what was happening at the site, didn’t like it, and is now trying to hold them to restrictions that never existed before, for anyone else.

Occupy Trenton Goes to Court

Update: 5:00 PM: The hearing has concluded and  the judge’s decision may become known as soon as tommorrow or the next day. The Occupy/ACLU lawyer Bennett Zurofsky argued, “the State was making up rules over a property for which they don’t even have authority. Time, manner and place of of restrictions can’t be made up as you go along. The occupation itself is a form of expression. Confiscating coolers and food? What is a park for?”

Having access to electricity and shelter against the cold would be huge for Occupy Trenton.

This afternoon at 3:00 PM the ACLU and other lawyers appeared in Mercer County Superior Court on behalf of Occupy Trenton seeking immediate restraints against further enforcement of the Zawacki letter, requiring restoration of public access to electric power in the park, and a return of items seized by State Troopers. The Zawacki letter had imposed numerous restrictions and served as the basis for troopers to confiscate almost everything from the site on Day 8 of the occupation. The letter appeared to have been created out of thin air with no basis in any existing ordinances or regulations for the site. The ACLU is arguing a violation of rights to due process and freedom of speech.

As of now this proceeding against the State continues, with both sides presenting their case. The State is arguing for aesthetic values of the park and claiming their rules are reasonable. For more updating Tweet to @ACLUNJ.  

Occupy Trenton: Support from Senator Turner And More

Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-15th), whose district includes Trenton in a telephone interview today, said, “The issues the occupiers are concerned about, I am concerned about – the lack of economic justice. Constituents have complained to me about items taken from them by the police. The occupiers are not being treated well. People are starting to wake up to the fact that government serves the greedy, not the needy. We can’t keep cutting the State budget on the backs of the poor and the middle class with the working person being crushed.”

After a rainy night and ongoing bad weather Occupy Trenton began its 14th day at the World War II Memorial. Last night members addressed Trenton City Council, their lawyers are finalizing a lawsuit, organizers are talking with people about coming to an event in Trenton, and they are coping with keeping the venue open 24/7 in the midst of bad weather, no shelter, and generator problems. They stream live at their website where there is also a CHAT LINE and NEWS section to update the public.  

Although they don’t use the word “rally,” Organizer Heath Weaver said “we have been talking with people about pulling together some veterans organizations and other folks to come to Trenton.” Edward Anthony said, “We’re looking forward to continuing our outreach to the local communities.” At 11:00 AM  members joined a Webinar: How to Organize a Resilience Circle, with such topics as “using base communities” and the “linking method to build your group.”

Edward Anthony and others last night addressed the Trenton City Council, which was already familiar with the occupation. Mayor Tony Mack was not there, but Edward stated to the Council that Mayor Mack acknowledged the site is under the city’s jurisdiction. Edward indicated that the council  did not contest the point and one councilperson offered some help. Edward added there was “light applause after some of us spoke,” and Heath said “the general response was good.” Mayor Mack’s office has not yet returned a phone call on the matter.

David Perry Davis, Esq, an Occupy Trenton lawyer, said he is working with Edward Barocas, ACLU Legal Director, in preparing a lawsuit which they will review today. He hopes to have it finalized in the next 24 to 48 hours.

More on the letter troopers used to confiscate items and on legal matters below the fold