Join Our Telegram Channel


The Jackson Township Council and Planning Board have finally produced documents as required due to the ongoing lawsuit filed by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office - an entire year after they were demanded.

Back in April 2021, the Civil Rights Division within the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General filed a civil rights lawsuit in Superior Court in Ocean County, alleging that Jackson Township authorities, through ordinances and enforcement actions, violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination by using their zoning powers to regulate land use and housing and make it harder for Orthodox Jews to practice their religion and to deter them from moving there.

The State’s complaint alleges the Jackson’s adoption of discriminatory zoning ordinances and enforcement practices was motivated in part by officials’ desire to appease Township residents who reacted to the Township’s growing Orthodox Jewish population by expressing hate and fear on social media, in complaints to Township officials, and in public meetings.

First, Township officials allegedly engaged in targeted and discriminatory surveillance of the homes of Orthodox Jews suspected of hosting communal prayer gatherings. Jackson’s zoning code requires permits for places of worship, but there are constitutional limits on municipalities’ ability to use their zoning authority to restrict the free exercise of religion, and government officials cannot discriminate on the basis of religion.

Second, the complaint alleges that Jackson Township officials engaged in discriminatory application of land use laws to inhibit the erection of sukkahs by the Township’s Jewish residents, particularly in their front yards.

According to the complaint, after residents began to question and complain about the appearance of sukkahs, Jackson Township officials modified their interpretation of a local ordinance to effectively prohibit sukkahs in front yards. The complaint alleges that the Township’s new enforcement policy discriminated against Jewish residents.

Third, Jackson officials allegedly discriminated against Orthodox Jews by enacting zoning ordinances in 2017 that essentially banned the establishment of yeshivas and dormitories.

Fourth, the complaint alleges that Jackson discriminated against Orthodox Jews by enacting a 2017 zoning ordinance that targeted and effectively banned the creation of eruvim.

The State’s complaint asks the court to find that each of the challenged zoning practices violates the Law Against Discrimination, to issue an order prohibiting Jackson Township’s discrimination against the Orthodox Jewish community, and to impose civil penalties, among other relief.

In November 2021, Judge Francis Hodgson denied Jackson Township's motion to dismiss and permitted the litigation to continue.

Typically in legal processing, the court holds a case management between the attorneys for all sides and sets a timeline in which sides have a discovery process. This is the formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they'll present at trial. Discovery enables the parties to know before the trial begins what evidence may be presented.

On February 4, 2022, the Court held a case management between the attorneys for all sides and ordered all parties to; a) propound document requests and interrogatories by February 17, 2022; b) answer document requests by March 24, 2022 and interrogatories by April 18, 2022; and c) complete fact and party depositions by September 15, 2022.

Both parties timely propounded interrogatories and document requests.

The State's interrogatories and document requests included the following:

Interrogatory 3 demands:

"Identify and Describe any actions Jackson Township, its officials and employees have taken to address and/or combat anti-Semitism and/or animus towards Orthodox Jewish people."

NTP 4 similarly demands:

"All Documentation and Communications Concerning any actions Jackson Township, including Township officials, the mayor, council members, Committee members, Municipal officers, administrators or employees have taken to address and/or combat anti-Semitism and/or animus towards Orthodox Jewish people.

Interrogatory 12 demands:

"Describe your process(es), including any relevant Code Provisions and zoning requirements, to receive and investigate complaints regarding: (a) shuls, houses of worship, and religious gatherings; (b) temporary and/or accessory structures, including Sukkahs; and (c) eruvim, encumbrances, and other prohibited items or objects prohibited items or objects in the public right of way. Identify all persons responsible for conducting, administering, and overseeing such investigations and enforcement during the relevant time period. In addition, provide any Policies governing any such process."

Interrogatory 17 demands:

"Describe all of your permitting and other requirements or criteria with regard to applications for temporary and/or accessory structures, including but not limited to Sukkahs. Include any relevant Jackson Code provision(s), zoning requirement(s), and other Policies, whether official or unofficial, governing these requirements and criteria and provide the date(s) of any changes to these requirements or criteria from January 1, 2011 to the present. In addition, describe whether this information is publicly available and if so, where it can be found."

NTP 18 demands:

"Any and all Documents and Communications Concerning notices of violation, including copies of each notice of violation, issued by the Township between January 1, 2011 to the present with respect to Sukkahs and the disposition of such notices of violation."

 The state responded in a timely fashion to Jackson's requests. However, by June 2022, Jackson Township had yet to respond to the state's interrogatories and document requests, ultimately delaying and obstructing the discovery process of the case.

As a result of Jackson Township's continued failures to respond as court-ordered, as previously reported here on FAA News, the Attorney General's office filed a formal Motion to enforce the Court’s prior discovery deadlines, enforce litigants’ rights, suppress Defendants’ Answers without prejudice, and for any and all other just and appropriate relief including, but not limited to: (a) requiring Defendants pay reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses, covering attorney time spent preparing and filing the current Motion and attorney time spent communicating with Defendants to enforce the prior Court Orders; (b) holding Defendants in contempt; and (c) barring certain objections to Plaintiffs’ Requests, including, but not limited to, objections to the date parameters of such requests.

A court may find a violation of litigants’ rights where it is satisfied that the offending party’s actions were willful and unjustified.

Feeling the heat of the motion, Jackson Township retained Attorney Brent R. Pohlman of Mandelbaum, Barrett PC as their third attorney representing them on this case.

Mr. Mandelbaum originally got the Attorney General's Office to hold off moving on their motion with a promise that "The Defendants intend on working together with the Plaintiffs in good faith to expedite and finalize this paper discovery process, and they are on track to provide all of the responsive materials within 4-6 weeks."

As previously reported here on FAA News, at a hearing held in September, carried the actual Motion, but had some choice words for Jackson's attorneys: "Do I need to keep calling you into the principal's office? Why haven't you produced the requested documents?"

Jackson's attorneys assured Judge Hodgson that they were working diligently on the matter and that they would continue to meet and confer with the Attorney General's Office to assure that they are getting them the documents they need.

As previously reported here on FAA News, in October Mr. Pohlman attempted to again stall the case by arguing, "This is a politically motivated case and they are trying to trump up conflict by claiming that we are being uncooperative. We conferred last Friday. We then met with the Township. We again conferred on Tuesday and shared the information that we obtained from the Township."

At that hearing Judge Hodgson ordered Jackson's officials to permit the Attorney General's Office to visit the Township for an on-site inspection of any and all documents which they wish to review and copy.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in December 2022, Judge Hodgson ordered Jackson's officials to again permit the Attorney General's Office to visit the Township for an additional on-site inspection of any and all documents which they wish to review and copy.

A subsequent hearing on the matter was previously scheduled for this Friday, February 17.

However, this hearing was just cancelled as Jackson Township officials have finally produced the documents that the State had demanded - a whole year after they were demanded!

Deputy Attorney General Loren Miller wrote to Judge Hodgson:

"Since the filing of that motion, the discovery process in this matter has progressed and the majority of the issues raised in the motion have now been resolved to Plaintiffs’ satisfaction. Accordingly, the pending motion is no longer the appropriate vehicle through which to adjudicate the discovery issues in this matter. However, Plaintiffs reserve the right to file a new discovery motion should the need arise. The parties are currently in the process of exchanging electronic discovery and Plaintiffs have begun taking fact depositions."

Judge Hodgson will hold a status conference on Monday February 27, 2023 so the parties can address the continuation of the litigation.

To join a FAA WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA WhatsApp Status, click here.

No comments: