On February 2, 2011, an animal welfare activist filed this lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County, against the City of Newark under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff, represented by public interest counsel, alleged that his rights to free speech and to be free from unlawful ...
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On February 2, 2011, an animal welfare activist filed this lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex County, against the City of Newark under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff, represented by public interest counsel, alleged that his rights to free speech and to be free from unlawful seizure were violated when he was arrested for engaging in protected expressive activity on March 7, 2010. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that he was arrested for protesting on a public sidewalk outside of the Prudential Center in Essex County. The plaintiff was protesting the treatment of an elephant by the circus that was in town, and claimed that he was arrested after refusing to follow instructions by police officers to stand in a designated "protest zone." This zone was located further away from the Prudential Center and out of the view of circus-goers.
The plaintiff further claimed that the City of Newark had a custom, practice, and policy of restricting and prohibiting expressive activities protected by the First Amendment on sidewalks outside of the Prudential Center. In his complaint, the plaintiff pointed to multiple cases in recent years that brought similar allegations and corroborated this: People's Organization for Progress v. City of Newark
, Dkt. No. C-268-04 (Ch. Div. filed July 2004) (which resulted in a Consent Order protecting the rights of individuals seeking to engage in expressive activity on the streets of Newark); Lima v. Newark Police Dept.
, No. 08-CV-426A (D.N.J. filed Sept. 2007); and Quodimine v. City of Newark
, No. 09-3596 (D.N.J. filed Oct. 2009). The plaintiff claimed the City's actions had violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights, as well as rights under the New Jersey Constitution and New Jersey Civil Rights Act. He sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory damages.
On February 23, 2011, the parties reached a settlement by means of a consent order. Although the parties agreed that the order reflected "a compromise of a disputed claim and does not in any way admit liability on the part of Defendants," the City agreed not to restrict the rights of individuals engaging in free speech activity on City sidewalks. Consent Order at 4
. The City further agreed to train its police officers and employees who are involved in issuing special events permits about the rights of protesters every six months. The City has an ordinance that requires a permit to be issued for free speech activities when the number of participants is 50 or more. The City also reimbursed the plaintiff's attorney's fees, which amounted to $1600. In return, the plaintiff released the City of any liability arising out of his arrest and agreed to dismiss the case. Greg in den Berken - 11/12/2014