ACRU Files Brief Urging N.J. Supreme Court to Allow Menendez Recall Petitions

The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) today filed a brief with the New Jersey Supreme Court urging the justices to affirm a state appellate court ruling ordering the Secretary of State to recognize a recall notice for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D). If the court concurs, petitioners could begin immediately to collect the 1.3 million signatures needed within 320 days to put Menendez on the ballot. Menendez, who was elected in 2006, is not slated for re-election until 2012.

The brief, filed by ACRU General Counsel Peter Ferrara, makes it clear that the court is deciding only the validity of a lower court's ruling that signature gathering is legal, not the constitutionality of the recall measure itself.

"The New Jersey Supreme Court must either affirm the ruling of the court below, or expressly overrule all the New Jersey precedents holding that courts will not address constitutional issues unless necessary to resolve a particular case," Ferrara said. "Those precedents are recited at length in our brief."

The ACRU had filed an amicus brief on Feb. 9 supporting The Committee to Recall Senator Robert Menendez, the group formed by NJ Tea Parties United and the Sussex County Tea Party. A previous Secretary of State under the Corzine Administration had ruled against the petition, triggering the court case.

The brief states:

"Nothing about the collection of signatures by the citizens of New Jersey on such petitions would violate the U.S. Constitution. Quite to the contrary, such petitioning is political activity protected by the U.S. Constitution, as a public expression of their views under the First Amendment, and as an exercise of their right to petition their government for redress of grievances under that same Amendment. That is all that this case presents to this court now."

In 1993, New Jersey citizens voted 76.2% to 23.8% to approve the constitutional recall language.

"We're hoping for a timely decision from this court," said ACRU President and CEO Susan Carleson. "We've made the case over and over for the constitutionality of recall, but this is an even easier call to make--letting the people circulate petitions."

Click here to download the brief. (PDF) Click here to download the supplemental brief. (PDF)