Slate’s MJS slides down the slippery slope

Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to NY’s gun laws in NY State Rifle & Pistol, et al. v. New York, NY, et al.

Here’s the Question Presented:

Whether the City’s ban on transporting a licensed, locked, and unloaded handgun to a home or shooting range outside city limits is consistent with the Second Amendment, the Commerce Clause, and the constitutional right to travel.

Question Presented is available on the Supreme Court website here:

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My American family

Like many Jews in America, my grandfather survived concentration camps in Nazi Poland and Germany to arrive here in hopes of making a new life during the 1940’s.  It wasn’t a hospitable time (to put it mildly) and as part of his journey towards citizenship, my grandfather joined the merchant marine.  The rules for citizenship were supposed to be straightforward — serve 3 years in the US armed forces or 5 years in the merchant marines and you would be eligible for citizenship.

Give us your service and get citizenship in return.  Except that a little more than two years into the merchant marines, the army decided to take him and send him to Europe to help the war effort as an interpreter.  He spoke several languages and they thought he could be put to better use.

Except when his five years was up… Continue reading

NJ AG intervenes in Leonia Street Closure Action

Back February, an attorney filed suit against the Borough of Leonia over their scheme to close down roads to non-residents in an effort to avoid congestion during morning and evening rush hours.

It appears that last week, the NJ Attorney General has now also thrown his hat into the case, by filing a complaint for a declaratory judgment and for an action in lieu of prerogative writs.  The complaint appears in full below. Continue reading

The Citizen In Peril

I once lent my car to a friend for a week and it wound up getting towed.  He parked it in a legal spot and several days later, they changed the sign over the car.  My friend never got a notice that they were changing the sign, but off the car went to the impound lot.

There’s no shortage of public opinion on what should be done when it comes to the issue of gun control.  Yesterday, a set of bills were signed into law by the governor (with a lawsuit promptly filed).

But one of them, the 10 round magazine limit, will have unintended consequences due to the lack of notification to citizens and possibly the Graves Act.  The public should be aware of this before it becomes effective and the law should be updated.

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A few thoughts on Flag Day

Today’s the anniversary of one of my favorite cases, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, which deals with saluting the flag.

I remember, as a kid, when someone told us it meant you didn’t HAVE to salute. As a rebellious kid, I saw it as another way to push back against authority.

But one day a long time ago, I read it.

It was in 1943, when Justice Jackson penned this opinion recognizing the right to refuse to salute the flag.

Here’s how the opinion ends:

“The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure, but because the flag involved is our own. Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization. To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to Continue reading

When the State treats non-residents with preferential treatment

Here, in NJ, law abiding gun owners sometimes find themselves in the crosshairs of the criminal justice system for having hyper-technical infractions of an amazingly complex set of laws.  As if the situation wasn’t worthy of attention for that fact alone, memoranda such as the Graves Act memo promulgated by the State Attorney General’s office remove relief valves such as pre-trial intervention, leaving nothing but prison terms remaining for people that make simple mistakes.

A couple of years ago, some high profile cases from out-of-state caused the AG to revise their Graves act memorandum.  In the 2014 Graves Act Clarification memo, NJ stated:

Recent events have focused public attention on how prosecutors exercise discretion in cases where a resident of another state brings into New Jersey a firearm that had been acquired lawfully and that could be carried lawfully by that visitor in the visitor’s home jurisdiction.  Under current New Jersey law, these otherwise law-abiding persons are subject not only to arrest, prosecution and conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm, but also to enhanced punishment – a mandatory minimum State Prison sentence – under the “Graves Act”.

It calls such this “neither necessary nor appropriate”.

Quite right.

But NJ is now considering changes to the laws that affect residents.  One of them in particular will change the Continue reading

The fellowship of the orange wrist-bands

It happened at 5:19pm on March 9th.  As the surgeon cut the umbilical cord and my daughter was legally a human in the eyes of the hospital, the nurse approached me with two bracelets.  One was familiar from my prior two kids, a band with my wife’s name, a BG for “baby girl” and the name of her doctor.  The second was an orange band.  It’s the NICU key.

Starting around week 32 of my wife’s pregnancy, she started to worry that she wasn’t feeling the baby move.  Since the risk is all on one side and there’s very little harm in getting checked out, we headed to the hospital.  The routine would become familiar.  They hook up the monitors and the heartbeat starts to fill the little room from the speakers.  Instantly the mood lifts — life is still there.  So far, so good.  Then, they add the additional monitors and look for things like movement or accelerations (accels).  That’s when we got the looks from the techs and doctors.  There’s enough movement that we don’t want to do an emergency c-section at this point, but we aren’t thrilled about the amount and maybe we’ll keep watching you for a little bit.

A couple of days later we were back.  Not feeling very much movement at all.  Same routine.
Heartbeat…. Accels… not loving the numbers.

After a few of these, the surgeon decided to go for steroid injections.  If the kid needed Continue reading

Would it be different without RLUIPA?

I’ve written a fair deal about what’s been happening in the Bergen County Eruv Litigation this past year.  I have advocated for municipalities such as Mahwah, USR & Motvale to create appropriate zoning rules that are generally applicable and enforced across the board.  In response, one of the common arguments I hear is that RLUIPA makes it impossible for a town to limit zoning and therefore they move to other measures to limit groups deemed undesirable in a particular area because they prefer different living conditions (e.g. higher density development).

Whether it’s a Church, Synagogue or Mosque — there’s an argument I often see invoked that tax exempt status harms communities when the rest of the town must make up or the loss of tax revenue for the new 501(c)(3) on the block.

Sadly, most people don’t understand how the NJ code handles such types of zoning applications or the pre-RLUIPA landscape that existed in New Jersey for “beneficial uses”. Continue reading

When Teaneck met Lord Chesterton (on reducing bureaucracy)

For several years I’ve been working at revising certain sections of our Township code. One of the sections I’ve focused on, concerns our sign ordinance and specifically, “uniformity”.

Teaneck’s Code Sec. 33-18(c)(5)(e)(6) reads:
Uniformity. Business signs for each occupant in a building with multiple occupancies shall be uniform and compatible in height, placement and design and to the extent possible color and letter font type.

In the back of my mind whenever I ask to remove or alter a statute or ordinance that we have on the books is the parable of Chesterton’s Fence1.  The ordinance was created for a reason, after all.  And unless one understands the history and background, removing it may make you understand that the alternative to bad can sometimes be worse.  This wasn’t something taken lightly. Continue reading

Supporting the unpopular because it’s [a] right.

On Tuesday, May 23rd, the township council is set to pass ordinance 13-2017  (“An Ordinance Regulating Roadway Solicitation by Charitable Organizations”) on second reading.  On its face, it’s a minor ordinance that probably wouldn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers, let alone raise alarm.  But it’s likely an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment and this should not be permitted to pass without inspection.

The issue begins with the state of New Jersey’s statutory ban on solicitation for money in roadways.  The statute has an exemption for towns to permit charitable organizations to collect funds in roadways, if they so desire to enable the exemption.

You can find the State statute (NJSA 39:4-60), here. It says, in relevant part: Continue reading