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Morris County Republican Chairwoman Laura Marie Ali. (Photo: Laura Marie Ali).

Still no ruling in Morris County line case

County Republicans to meet for vote next Saturday as week goes by without judge’s decision

By Nikita Biryukov, January 29 2021 11:16 am

There’s still no ruling on a bid to dismiss suit lodged by two former Morris County Freeholders who claimed the county’s GOP committee violated its bylaws when it scheduled a Jan. 16 vote on whether Republicans in Morris should adopt a party line.

Superior Court Judge Maritza Berdote Byrne heard the case last Friday and said she’d issue a ruling on the Morris County Republican Committee’s motion to dismiss early this week, on Monday or Tuesday, but she has yet to do so.

Former Freeholders David Scapicchio and John Sette, who chaired the county Republican organization for 17 years, sued the MCRC a day before the original convention date, charging it was improperly noticed because an email sent by GOP Chairwoman Laura Ali did not include a specific date for the convention.

Berdote Byrne blocked the original convention but made no move to prevent a new convention scheduled for Feb. 6.

Alan Zakin, the attorney representing the former freeholders, sought further restraints, but the judge found the new meeting was properly noticed, and the line opponents shifted their focus to forcing Ali to share email lists used to communicate with GOP committee members in the county.

Because Ali was using those lists to communicate with voting members, they claimed there couldn’t be a fair election if they lacked the same privilege.

The court battle has become the field for an intra-party feud over whether Morris County’s Republican Committee should play a larger role in selecting candidates in a county where Democrats once had little chance of winning elections.

Ali and others, like State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville), charge a line is needed to select better candidates as Democratic strength grows in Morris. Sette, Scapicchio and their allies claim it’s a bid to centralize power with county Republican leadership, worrying a line may discourage new or young Republicans from seeking office.

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