Home>Highlight>Capitol vax-or-test mandate gets April court date

Legislators wait to enter the New Jersey General Assembly chambers on December 2, 2021. (Photo: Joey Fox for the New Jersey Globe).

Capitol vax-or-test mandate gets April court date

Republican effort to stay mandate in the interim is denied

By Joey Fox, December 10 2021 2:14 pm

A Republican-led appeal against the capitol complex’s vaccine-or-testing mandate has had its court date set for the week of April 11, 2022, a full four months from tomorrow. In the meantime, an appellate judge denied a request from Republicans to stay the policy until the matter is resolved.

Opposing the policy on behalf of Republicans will be Michael Lavery of Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis, & Cohen; defending it will be Jeremy Feigenbaum, the state solicitor and a heavy-hitting member of the attorney general’s office. Both sides will be required to submit briefs in January.

While soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) and Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio (R-Hackettstown) had hoped that the mandate would be prevented from taking effect until the court case is settled, Appellate Judge Allison Accurso turned them down earlier today.

“As the rules issued by the Legislature’s presiding officers on December 2, 2021, make clear any stay issued by the court will not provide plaintiffs interim relief, the motion for stay is denied,” Accurso wrote.

The far-off court date, and the denial of a stay in the interim, promises further conflict over the policy, which already prompted a multi-hour standoff between capitol police and Republican lawmakers last week.

During last Thursday’s voting session, Assembly Republicans refused to comply with state troopers who asked to see proof of vaccination or a recent negative test to gain entry to the Assembly chambers, forcing their way past the troopers and camping out in the chambers for several hours.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin eventually relented and allowed the voting session to proceed even with the non-compliant Republicans in attendance, but forestalled a similar situation this week by switching all committee hearings to Zoom. 

Now that the policy seems set to remain in place for at least four more months, Coughlin – and potentially Senate Democratic leadership as well, though Senate Republicans have generally been more agreeable – will have to figure out how to deal with a Republican caucus unified in its disdain for the mandate.

Just this morning, Assemblyman Erik Peterson (R-Franklin) said he plans on continuing to protest the policy, and will file criminal and civil charges against anyone who attempts to enforce it on him.

In a statement this afternoon, Oroho expressed his frustration both with Accurso’s denial of a stay and the long wait legislators will now have to endure before a ruling comes.

“We’re disappointed that arguments are going to be delayed when it seems clear the [Joint Management Commission] exceeded its authority in restricting public access to the State House,” Oroho said. “This isn’t just about legislators, it’s about ensuring the rights of citizens to have access to their government.”

This story was updated at 3:34 p.m.; the court date is April 11, 2022, not 2021. It was updated again at 3:45 p.m. with a statement from State Sen. Steve Oroho.

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