A judge on Tuesday ruled against an appeal filed by attorneys aligned with West New York Mayor Felix Roque that sought to force former Roque aide Jonathan Castañeda to testify.
Hudson County Superior Court judge Peter Bariso said his job was to decide whether there was enough evidence to justify West New York Town Clerk Carmela Riccie’s decision to deny Roque’s challenge of all 58 of the county committee candidates running on the Hudson County Democratic Organization line in the city.
He ruled there was sufficient evidence, discounting the argument made Roque attorney Stephen Edelstein claiming that Castañeda was central to the main allegations made by the Roque side. Edelstein argued that, because Castaneda did not appear and testify at an April 11 hearing for which he subpoenaed, Riccie’s decision was arbitrary.
The decision marks the end of the case in the superior court, but it’s not clear whether or not Roque intends to appeal the decision.
“They certainly retain that right,” Edelstein said, referring to his clients.
The judge also took issue with the lack of notice given to the challenged candidates. None of the 58 HCDO candidates Roque challenged were sent notice of the court hearing, nor were they notified of the original April 11 hearing before Riccie.
Edelstein argued that serving notice to the HCDO, under who’s slogan the candidates are running, would be sufficient since county committee is largely a party position. The Judge disagreed.
“I have concerns about notice to the 58 individuals, I do believe they should have been served with the order to show cause, time constraints notwithstanding,” Bariso said. “I don’t accept the argument that serving the Hudson County Democratic Organization is simply sufficient and affords 58 people notice to take whatever action they deem appropriate.”
The decision will allow West New York ballots to citizens and military service members abroad be mailed out. According to state law, those ballots were supposed to begin going out on Saturday. The printing of those ballots was delayed after the court notified the county clerk that there was a pending court hearing that could affect the ballots.
Curiously, few in the court took any measures to address allegations that many of the HCDO petitions were circulated without any names attached, a common practice that nonetheless constitutes a breach of state election law.
Should Roque and his allies choose to appeal the decision, that issue may be brought into clearer relief.