ELIZABETH, NJ - A suit that was filed against Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi by three Plainfield residents was heard by Judge Mark R. Ciarrocca this morning in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Elizabeth.
The order to show cause was filed by the three petitioners to seek a determination of the court that their petitions submitted for the Plainfield Board of Education election be accepted. The matter arose from a denial by the Union County Clerk's office to accept the petitions because they were filed after the deadline of 4:00 p.m. on Monday, July 31, 2017.
The Plaintiffs' representative, John Campbell, Jr., had the paperwork time stamped at the County Clerk's office at 4:02 p.m., two minutes past the statutory deadline.
Eric J. Andrews, who was present in court for the proceedings, along with Terence J. Johnson and Cameron E. Cox, filed the suit to direct Rajoppi to include their names on the ballot for the Plainfield Board of Education in November. They were represented by Nixon Teah Kannah.
Attorney David Minchello was there on behalf of Intervener Defendants Avonia Richardson-Miller, Aisha Eustache, and Tera Phipps. Moshood Muftau of the County Counsel's Office was there to represent the County Clerk.
Judge Ciarrocca first granted the application to intervene filed by Eustache, Richardson-Miller and Phipps, and the next issue brought forth was regarding whether the Plaintiffs' petitions should be deemed as timely filed.
Kannah cited cases to support the Plaintiffs' position, and said the Defendants could not argue that the county would incur additional costs associated with having to print new ballots, or establish any administrative disruption for the candidates presently on the ballot.
Muftau, in response to the Plaintiffs' Counsel stating that the County Clerk should have accepted the petitions, said, "I submit to you she should not." He continued, saying that the statute is clear, not ambiguous, and said Rajoppi did what the statute required her to do.
The judge agreed, but added, "that doesn't mean I can't order otherwise."
Minchello spoke, saying the question becomes what attempts the petitioners made in order to comply with the statute, but Judge Ciarrocca interjected, saying the analysis really is about the court having to liberally construe election laws so that voters don't become disenfranchised.
The court found, on the issue of timeliness, that there is no unfair prejudice by including the Plaintiffs' names on the ballot, particularly since they have consented to being placed at the end of the ballot in the seventh, eighth and ninth positions.
Once the petitions were deemed as timely filed, the issue of challenges by the Interveners was raised. Judge Ciarrocca asked for details to be submitted in writing, and the court will reconvene on Thursday, Sept. 7th at 2:00 p.m.
Mayor Adrian O. Mapp and Board of Education members Carmencita Pile, Dorien Hurtt, and John Campbell were present for the proceedings. Two candidates already on the ballot, Timothy A. Priano and William A. Contreras, were also in court, in addition to Campbell's wife, Wilma, and their son.