Home>Local>Burlington>Judge tells Eckel to get a lawyer, adds Burlington commissioner to lawsuit seeking to oust her

Burlington County Commissioner Allison Eckel. (Photo: Allison Eckel).

Judge tells Eckel to get a lawyer, adds Burlington commissioner to lawsuit seeking to oust her

Harrington sets hearing for March 23

By David Wildstein, May 11 2022 6:26 pm

Burlington County Commissioner Allison Eckel needs to be a part of a lawsuit challenging the legality of her holding office.

“The person who’s occupying the office is the once who has to convince me she should continue to occupy the office,” said Superior Court Judge John E. Harrington.  “She must convince me that she has good title.”

Republicans are challenging a Democratic special election convention to fill a vacancy, saying county chairman Joseph Andl missed the statutory deadline.

Harrington set a hearing for May 23 and declined to remove Eckel in the meantime.

“To me, it boils down to whether or not the statute in question is mandatory or directory, in view of the case law that defines what they are,” Harrington said.  “Along the way, we need to discuss what’s the legislative history of this statute.”

He said he “can’t compel” parties to fill vacancies.

Stephen Edelstein, an attorney representing County Clerk Joanne Schwartz, questioned the standing of the Burlington GOP organization to challenge the election.

“In no circumstance will a member of the Republican Party fill that seat and in no circumstance will the Republican county committee have a role in filling that seat,” he said.  “It’s unclear to me whether the Republican county committee even has standing.”

Harrington disagreed, saying the GOP has standing to challenge the process.

“But you’re right.  It would just simply remain vacant if I vacated it because they didn’t do it in time,” Harrington said.

Edelstein suggested that the county counsel might tell him to represent Eckel as well and told Harrington he doesn’t think that presents a conflict.   The GOP attorney, Christopher Dasti, had no objection.

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