Parking Ticket Gripes Are Not Cause for Contempt

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
June 30, 1999 12:00 am

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TRENTON — New Jerseyans can now call a parking ticket “legal extortion” or write on their check that the money is going to the “highway robbery fund” with impunity — or at least without fear of being held in contempt of court, the Bergen Record reported today.

A directive issued June 22 by the state’s administrative judge instructs jurists to take no action against individuals who write “offensive comments” on communications to the court.

According to the Record, the directive came in response to a number of cases brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of citizens who were cited after writing angry comments on the memo portions of personal checks.

One of those cases involved Mary L. Novak of Elmwood Park. Novak was cited for contempt in April by Municipal Judge Anthony D. Cipollone after referring to a $9 late fee on a parking ticket as “highway robbery” on her check memo.

The ACLU also represented a Morristown man accused of contempt last summer after he wrote “legal extortion” on his check for three overdue parking tickets.

Both North Jersey cases were ultimately dropped, the Record said. In all, the New Jersey ACLU has successfully fought five such contempt cases since 1991. The ACLU considers the contempt citations to be an infringement on free speech rights, and had asked state Supreme Court Justice Deborah Poritz to ban the practice.

ACLU of New Jersey Legal Director Lenora Lapidus told the Record that she was “gratified” by the decision.

A release on the filing of Novak’s case is online at /news/1999/n041299a.html.

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