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December 16, 2010

Re:   Update on League Legal Activities

  1. In the Matter of Damien Johnson
  2. Gannett Satellite Information Network v. Raritan

Dear Mayor:

One of the most important ways the League supports local governments is through our legal advocacy.  The League has lent its support as amicus curiae in numerous cases with important statewide implications in the past, and this year is no different.  Here is a brief update on the status of a few of the cases where the League is supporting municipalities.

I.  In the Matter of Damien Johnson was an appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court by the City of Linden.  The City of Linden, a civil service town, attempted to fire an employee after he was involved in a fight with another employee.  Linden disciplined the employee in the past for violent and threatening behavior, and felt that the latest incident was the last straw.  The Civil Service Commission disagreed, and modified the penalty from termination to a suspension.  The Appellate Division upheld this decision.

The League was granted amicus curiae status for the appeal to the Supreme Court.  We argued that a municipality must have the ability to terminate an employee for violent behavior without having to engage in progressive discipline.  Unfortunately, the Supreme Court disagreed and denied certification.  We urge you to discuss the implications of this case with your municipal attorney or labor attorney.

II.  Gannett Satellite Information Network v. Raritan is currently pending in the Appellate Division.  Gannett sent out several requests to municipalities for payroll information in digital, non-PDF format.  Since Raritan did not maintain the payroll information in that medium, it offered to convert the information.  As permitted by the Open Public Records Act, Raritan informed Gannett of the special service charge involved.  Gannett refused to pay the special service charge and sued.  The trial court decided in favor of Raritan, stating that the costs of converting to a requested medium should be borne by the requester and not by the taxpayers of the town. 

Gannett appealed, and the League was granted amicus curiae status in the Appellate Division.  We lent our weight to Raritan’s argument that the costs of converting a medium should not be passed on to the taxpayers.  Oral argument is current scheduled for mid-January.  We will keep you updated on the status of this important case.

Finally, the League was granted amicus curiae status in a complaint before the Council on Local Mandates.  Roxbury Township argued before the council that certain provisions of the Stormwater Management regulations were an unfunded mandate, and the League agreed.  The Council has not yet decided this recent case.  Again, we will keep you updated on its progress.

The League General Counsel and the Amicus Curiae Committee consider requests from municipalities or municipal attorneys for intervention in court cases on behalf of specific local governments.  League policy provides for intervention in appropriate cases of broad municipal importance.  The League does not generally participate in cases at the trial court level because cases involving broad municipal issues that justify League intervention as amicus curiae are more likely to be those pending in the Supreme Court and Appellate Division.

If would like to request League intervention in a case affecting your municipality, please contact staff attorney Matthew Weng at or 609-695-3481 ext. 137.

Very truly yours,


William G. Dressel, Jr.
Executive Director


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