Supreme Court should make it easier to sue cops who violate our civil rights

Posted Jun 07, 2020

By Sarah Ricks

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned that the doctrine of qualified immunity Court, “sends an alarming signal to law enforcement officers and the public. It tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.” (illustration)

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It’s time for the Supreme Court to make it easier to sue police by limiting the defense of “qualified immunity.”

When a police officer violates a person’s constitutional rights, you’d think a court necessarily would hold that police officer responsible for paying civil damages. You’d be wrong. Instead, police are protected by a legal rule called “qualified immunity.”

The idea that animates qualified immunity makes sense. It’s rooted in fairness to civil rights defendants. Briefly, police are responsible for violating a person’s constitutional rights only if the officers should have realized their conduct violated specific civil rights or constitutional law. And constitutional law is not static but evolves.

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How We Got Here: New Jersey’s Long Record of Not Putting Enough Money by for a Rainy Day

JOHN REITMEYER | JUNE 8, 2020

NJ Spotlight

Testifying before the Assembly Budget Committee in 2019, Sheila Reynertson of New Jersey Policy Perspective urged lawmakers to build up budget reserves, even if it meant also raising taxes.

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New Jersey is slashing funding for property-tax relief, getting ready to defer public-worker pension-system payments and holding aid for K-12 school districts flat, all in response to steep revenue losses caused by the ongoing pandemic.

The state is also the only one in the nation to extend its fiscal year because of the health crisis, and lawmakers are now considering a virtually unprecedented emergency borrowing proposal by the governor that could stick taxpayers with debt and interest payments stretching out over 30 years.

All these measures are being taken, at least in part, because New Jersey didn’t have enough money socked away in budget reserves to help absorb the revenue losses occurring in an economic downturn set off by the response to the pandemic. New Jersey went into what could be a still-unfolding recession with only a fraction of its total annual spending in reserve, despite being urged repeatedly by fiscal-policy experts — and even the state’s own treasurer — to change course.

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N.J. landlord sues Murphy to stop order allowing tenants to pay rent with security deposits

Posted Jun 06, 2020

A New Jersey landlord is challenging Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order allowing tenants to use their security deposits to pay their rent during the coronavirus crisis.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Matthew Johnson claims the governor’s order violates his constitutional rights and the contract he signed with his tenant for a $600 security deposit at his rental property in Cherry Hill, according to a statement released by New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonpartisan legal group that filed the suit Tuesday.

The lawsuit could be the first in a long line of landlord-tenant issues that arise from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Some legal experts have criticized the first-term governor for his overarching executive orders that could go beyond his constitutional powers, including intervening with rent payments.

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Newark seeks to declare hate groups as ‘terrorists,’ establish zero tolerance for racism by city employees

Posted Jun 06, 2020

White supremacist groups will be outlawed in Newark if a proposed ordinance is adopted by the city council in the coming weeks, officials said.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced Friday that he would ask the Newark City Council to approve an ordinance that would denounce hate crimes and racism, police brutality and declare white supremacy groups as terrorists in the city.

“We are long overdue on a measure such as this,” Baraka said in a release. “For this country to heal, we must begin to legally challenge the insidious and dehumanizing tenets of white supremacy, once and for all. We must stand up forcefully against racism and have the courage to take on the legal challenges an ordinance such as this will attract.”

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BLM protesters, police stand side-by-side at peaceful N.J. demonstration

Posted Jun 05, 2020

Rain Friday evening didn’t stop several hundred people from gathering in Bloomfield at a peaceful demonstration that saw Black Lives Matter activists and police officers side-by-side to protest the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The planned march was held in conjunction with local police and began at Bloomfield High School before ending at the Bloomfield Police Department. Officers watched as speakers captivated the peaceful audience, including a Black township resident named Miles who told a story about a time he was pulled over on Bloomfield Avenue. He and his white friend, he said, were treated differently by police.

“That’s when I finally realized that racism is real in America and in Bloomfield,” he said.

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Gov. Phil Murphy to Nominate First Black Woman to State Supreme Court

COLLEEN O'DEA | JUNE 5, 2020 

NJ Spotlight

Fabiana Pierre-Louis

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If ultimately confirmed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, Fabiana Pierre-Louis would become the first black woman to serve on the state’s highest court, the third black justice in its history and its first black justice in a decade. She clerked for the last black justice, John Wallace Jr., who was denied tenure by former Gov. Chris Christie in May 2010, setting off a firestorm in legal circles.

Her confirmation would bring to three the number of women on the seven-member court. Given her age, 39, Pierre-Louis could potentially serve for more than three decades on a court that has been known nationally for groundbreaking decisions in the areas of school funding and housing discrimination and been criticized as “activist” by conservatives.

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Cory Booker blasts Rand Paul for blocking anti-lynching bill on day of George Floyd memorial

Posted Jun 04, 2020

On the day that George Floyd was remembered, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker sought to finally make lynching a federal crime in this country.

But Republican Sen. Rand Paul stood in the way, and nothing Booker or U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris said could move him.

“God, if this bill passed today, what that would mean for America,” Booker, D-N.J., said on the Senate floor. “Let us pass this legislation today of all days. Let us give a headline tomorrow or something that will give hope to this country that we can get it right.”

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A History-Making Generation Looks to the Living History of Newark, New Jersey

By Max Pizarro | June 4, 2020

Insider NJ

 

As New Jersey heads toward another weekend of scheduled justice actions, let us celebrate those torchbearers of generations of peaceful protesters in this state, who go back – in the case of Adrianne Davis of Newark – to marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C. in 1963, or Joe Hayden, who also hails from Newark, driving to Selma, Alabama in 1965 to march with Dr. King.

Now, young peace warriors, this is your generation to lead.

A decayed order in both parties has hoarded resources, used politics to cocoon influence and privilege, and confine itself under the miserly yolk of self-enrichment off the public dime, while denying a shift of power in this country to a generation now lit up – not by the dull glow of meaningless violence – but in the fierce and powerful glare of history.

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‘We need freedom,’ Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says in spoken word video

Posted Jun 04, 2020

“We want to love ourselves freely,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says in a new video. “Unfettered images of our grandmothers in our dreams.”

“We need freedom," he says. “Not just the Bill of Rights but rights to build our own lives, to be free from destituteness and hatred and hungry children.”

As protesters march against the killing of black Americans at the hands of police, Baraka has released a video for words he wrote that speak to themes of long-overdue justice and liberty.

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N.J. limits nonessential stores reopening to half capacity, with masks required. Here are the details.

June 4, 2020

When most — but not all — nonessential retail businesses in New Jersey are allowed to reopen with shoppers inside stores June 15, capacity will be limited to 50% and both customers and employees will be required to wear face coverings to protect against the coronavirus.

One major caveat: Nonessential stores at indoor malls are still not allowed to reopen yet, unless they have a separate entrance.

Gov. Phil Murphy laid out those safety restrictions and guidelines Thursday as the state prepares to enter Stage 2 of its multi-phase reopening plan after nearly three months of coronavirus restrictions.

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