TRENTON – New Jersey is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union over what the group says is a refusal by the state to release its policies on wearing buttons, pins or stickers inside the Statehouse.
The civil rights group’s state chapter announced Monday it filed a lawsuit against the state alleging officials violated New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act. The ACLU-NJ requested the New Jersey State Police provide its policies regarding wearing such items inside the Statehouse after it received a complaint from a Statehouse visitor who was told to remove politically expressive buttons prior to entering the building.
The ACLU-NJ’s records request was denied by the state police, which said the policy falls under OPRA’s “standard operation procedures” exemption.
“It is completely absurd that the State Police may have a policy restricting what the public can or cannot do, but then refuses to let the public know what the policy actually says,” said Ed Barocas, acting director of the ACLU-NJ, in a statement.
“The Statehouse belongs to the public, and the public has a right to know if the government has placed any unconstitutional restrictions on their free speech,” said Janie Byalik of Pashman Stein, P.C., which represents the ACLU-NJ in the matter. “The state’s refusal to release its free speech policy is an affront to transparency and to democracy.”
The ACLU-NJ is challenging several other similar record request denials in court.