ACLU Targets Wyckoff Political Sign Ordinance
Attorney: Township should "repeal or amend" the "unconstitutional" law
The American Civil Liberties Union has flexed its legal muscle in Wyckoff over a township ordinance it believes is unconstitutional.
A representative from the ACLU of New Jersey has been in communication with Township Attorney Robert Landel, both over the phone and in writing, to tell the township that the ordinance restricting durational limits on political signs is unconstitutional.
Wyckoff limits the display of temporary political signs to 30 days. They are also limited to four square feet and must be set back 25 feet from the curb.
The non-profit organization got involved after SAVE Wyckoff leader Stanley Goodman reached out to ACLU-NJ Deputy Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero over concerns with the ordinance's impact on residents' first amendment rights.
"I feel that it's important for the town to allow people to express themselves, and clearly I'm not the only one in the United States who feels that political expression is important," Goodman said, adding that he hopes the Township Committee would allow residents to keep their lawn signs up indefinitely.
LoCicero sent Goodman a copy of the letter before sending it to the township, according to Goodman, who gave Mayor Chris DePhillips a heads up.
"[DePhillips] had reached out to us in a reasonable, non-confrontational way, and I wanted to reciprocate and not have him be blindsided by the letter," Goodman said.
Goodman said he hasn't heard from the Township Committee since the letter went out.
According to DePhillips, the ACLU contacted Landel shortly after their meeting in late February with Goodman and raised "legal and constitutional concerns" with the township's sign ordinance.
Because of ongoing discussions between the LoCicero and Landel, DePhillips doesn't expect the Township Committee to take any immediate action on the law.
But, DePhillips wouldn't go as far as to say the township was considering striking the ordinance or fighting the ACLU's legal challenge.
"All options were still on the table," DePhillips said. "Rob [Landel's] job is to give us advice on how the ordinance can be improved or tweaked or changed, and it's fair to say that those discussions are happening between him and [the Township Committee]."
In her letter to Landel dated March 1, LoCicero writes that the township should "immediately cease enforcement of durational limits on political signs and publicly announce such action and repeal or amend the ordinance to cure the constitutional defects as soon as possible."
A copy of both LoCicero's letter and the township's ordinance are attached to this story.
Landel did not return a call for comment on Monday.
"Ordinances like this one are cropping up all over New Jersey — this isn't by any means isolated," LoCicero said in 2008. "Even if the restrictions aren't being enforced, the ordinances will have a chilling effect. Until they are taken off the books, we will continue fighting them."