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Gov. Phil Murphy. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Murphy sues Jersey City to halt local closure of child care centers serving essential employees

Judge enjoins local officials from enforcing mayor’s executive order until April 27 court hearing

By David Wildstein, April 13 2020 9:35 pm

A Superior Court Judge today sided with Gov. Phil Murphy and has put the brakes on Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s social distancing executive order that closes local daycare centers.

Judge Robert Lougy enjoined city officials, including prosecutor Jake Hudnut and health director Stacey Flanagan, from enforcing the local order until a court hearing set for April 27.

Murphy filed a lawsuit today challenging Jersey City’s emergency authority to close certain establishments that fail to mirror his own state executive order.

The state argued in an order to show cause signed by Lougy today that any delay in temporarily restraining the Jersey City order would cause “immediate and irreparable damage” before a court hearing.

Murphy signed an executive order on March 25 that allows child care centers to remain open if they certify that they will only provide emergency child care for the children of essential works.

Child care center that didn’t make the proper certification were to have closed on April 1.

“Essential personnel are a vital part of our response and limiting child care to solely these individuals will assist in flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases, as well as provide our front-line workers with the critical services they need to get through this emergency,” Murphy said.   “A lack of child care cannot be a barrier for our essential employees, and while these workers commit themselves to our New Jersey family, we will commit ourselves to protecting their families.”

The order stops Jersey City from enforcing the part of Fulop’s order that required “bars and nightclubs that do not serve food, movie theaters, performance venues, entertainment venues (e.g., bowling alleys, arcades, private playgrounds) recreational facilities, gyms, fitness centers/studios, daycare centers, shopping malls, non-food retail establishments, state-licensed cosmetology establishments, barber shops, hair/beauty salons, and nail salons” to close at noon on March 16.

“We’ve said to the Governor that we’ll accommodate all front line families that need help but we weren’t willing to just open unlicensed day care centers or centers with violations as that only puts residents at risk,” Fulop said on Twitter.  “The state is unwilling to provide any.

That would allow daycare centers to reopen and prevents local police from issuing summonses or Hudnut prosecuting possible offenders until the court process plays out.

Assistant Attorney General Erin O’Leary is representing Murphy in the action.

Murphy v Fulop OTSC signed 4.13.20 (2)
Jersey City Executive Order 4
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