A Supreme Court judge today dismissed a lawsuit filed by Republicans in Burlington County to prevent Democrats from filling the vacancy of county commissioner, but left the door open to reconsider when the seat will be filled later.
Judge John E. Harrington said the case, filed by Republicans on Friday, “is not yet ripe for a decision.”
“I don’t know if the committee is going to meet, I don’t know if they will make a decision,” Harrington said. “I honestly don’t know now if it can be considered in court until it is sworn in – a person is trying to take office – so a whole lot of things have to happen … (to) determine if the actions were appropriate. ”
Republicans argue that the deadline to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of District Commissioner Linda Hines from the position of Supreme Court judge was February 19th.
Joe Endle, chairman of the Democratic District, never convened a meeting to replace Hines.
Raj Parih, a Democrat lawyer from Burlington, argued that neither side should be involved in the decision-making process of the other.
“At this point, I’ve been involved in electoral law for over 15 years, and I’ve never been in a case where the Republican Party is trying to enjoy having the Democratic Party hold some sort of internal meeting or vice versa,” he said.
“It’s a slippery slope that can never end,” Harrington said.
Republican lawyer Christopher Dusty told the court that the Republican Party had learned of Endl’s plan to appoint Alison Eckel to the post despite the expiration of the term. The New Jersey Globe confirmed Endle’s intention.
“On February 19, they were unable to take their seats, and now they are taking steps to present the name to the district clerk and try to say we are not trying to stop any political organization from gathering, but that would certainly be inappropriate.” Declared Dusty. “Now you need to vote in violation of the statute, present the name of the county clerk to fill someone, and then we’ll be back here to your honor in a week or a couple of days.”
But the judge hinted that in the end he may not be affected by the statutory deadline for filling vacancies.
Harrington stressed that all issues of the New Jersey election were paramount: the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in October 2002, which allowed Democrats to replace incumbent President Bob Taricelli on ballots instead of candidate Frank Lawtenberg, even though ballots had already been printed and some votes already were a throw.
“There’s no such deadline,” Harrington said.