Let People Decide, ACRU Says in New Jersey Recall Brief
Today the American Civil Rights Union filed an amicus brief (PDF) in support of a grassroots citizens effort to petition for recall of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).
The Sussex County Tea Party and NJ Tea Parties United, which filed the original petition request to gather signatures as The Committee to Recall Senator Robert Menendez from the United States Senate, contend that Menendez has violated his oath of office by voting for unconstitutional measures such as the attempted government health care takeover bill.
The New Jersey Secretary of State at the time rebuffed the request. So the matter is in court. Menendez is up for re-election in 2012. A successful recall petition drive could put him on the ballot this November.
Peter Ferrara, general counsel for the American Civil Rights Union, who authored the brief, said, "We will just be supporting the Committee to Recall Robert Menendez in asking the Court to order the Secretary of State to follow the explicit New Jersey state law and to recognize the right of the people of New Jersey, as explicitly provided in the New Jersey State Constitution, to petition their government for redress of grievances, and to publicly express their opinion as to whether Senator Robert Menendez should be recalled."
The Committee filed a notice of intent with then-Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells on September 25. After Wells failed to respond, the group filed a lawsuit. Wells resigned on Jan. 19 as the new administration of Gov. Chris Christie took office.
A lawyer for Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who is serving as Secretary of State, will represent the state in court. Oral arguments are slated Feb. 26. If the petition goes forward, citizens will have to collect more than one million signatures totaling 25 percent of the votes in the last election.
"Senator Menendez thinks he has a constitutional right to freedom from criticism, and is asking the Court to enforce that right by shutting down the petition drive to recall him and the public expression by New Jersey citizens of their opinion regarding such recall," Ferrara said.
New Jersey is one of eight states that have broad constitutional language providing for recall of elected officials, including Members of Congress. A ninth, Montana, has a recall statute. Here is New Jersey's constitutional provision, which took effect in 1995:
Article 1 Section 2b The people reserve unto themselves the power to recall, after at least one year of service, any elected official in this State or representing this State in the United States Congress. The Legislature shall enact laws to provide for such recall elections.
"The ACRU feels that the American people deserve to know that recalling rogue legislators is an option in several states," said ACRU CEO and President Susan Carleson. "We do not advocate the removal of any particular official, nor does the ACRU participate in any petition gathering campaign. We are, however, providing as much information as possible to Americans who want to fully exercise their right to a representative, responsive government."