Roselle Park, NJ may give up fight against profane anti-Biden signs
ROSELLE PARK — The battle over Andrea Dick's profane anti-Joe Biden signs could be coming to an end with the signs still on her fence and borough officials suggest that they may not be willing to take this free-speech fight to the state's top court.
The $250 a day fines began being assessed by the borough of Roselle Park after Dick defied a Municipal Court order to remove the signs from a fence in her yard.
Dick was dejected after she lost her court battle with Roselle Park, which said the signs with the F-word violate a borough ordinance because she lives on a route that kids use to walk to an elementary school.
But Dick has seemingly been energized as the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has stepped in as her legal representation in state Superior Court on Tuesday.
"They're fighting for my First Amendment rights. They feel the judge's ruling was unfair because the ordinance does not match what they're trying to get me on. They're saying we have a good chance," Dick told New Jersey 101.5 said.
Dick shares their confidence in coming out with a win.
Dick also earned the support of the New York Times' liberal editorial page, which chided the borough in a Sunday editorial for taking the woman and her mother to court.
The limits of free speech are subject to debate, but Ms. Dick’s case does not approach those boundaries," the editorial titled "It is every American's Right to Curse the President" says. "She has the right to curse out the president of the United States, and it should not require an appeals court to deliver that news to Roselle Park."
Dick said that the daily fines are not being collected yet by the borough pending the outcome of the Superior Court hearing.
"We don't have to pay them until Superior Court. If we lose, then yes, I have to come up with the money. If we don't lose then the fines are all going to be squashed," Dick said.
Roselle Park Mayor Joe Signorello told New Jersey 101.5 that the borough will not move forward if the case winds up at the state Supreme Court and doesn't want to get embroiled in a costly First Amendment battle.
"At the end of the day, if we were to lose I don't think we would go to the Appellate Division and take it any higher. We would probably change the ordinance. If we were to win and she were to appeal again, we'd have to take a long hard look at what this is costing the borough," Signorello said.
The mayor isn't sure how the ordinance would be changed but pending a review by the borough attorney it could specifically include a cutout to address Dick's signs.
"If a Superior Court judge were to deem it in violation with the First Amendment we would have to make it compliant but I don't know what form it would take," Signorello said.
Signorello, a Democrat, is running for the state Senate in the 21st Legislative District against Republican incumbent Jon Bramnick.
The irony of an organization that has tended to lean politically left representing her right to criticize a liberal president is not lost on Dick, who said she was shocked when she got a call.
"That is a really unbelievable organization. Whatever I don't use out of my GoFundMe page I'm going to send them because they're actually doing it pro bono," Dick said.
"All New Jerseyans have the right to express themselves freely under the First Amendment, and Roselle Park’s ordinance against posting obscene signs places should never have been applied to political signs. This type of policing and silencing of speech, which has historically disproportionately impacted New Jerseyans of color, cannot go unchecked," NJ ACLU Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero told New Jersey 101.5. "We will vigorously defend our clients’ rights to criticize politicians – even using coarse language – expression that sits at the core of the First Amendment."