Lawsuit

Recently, we wrote about the Borough of Leonia, New Jersey's attempt to avoid rush hour traffic by blocking off all of their local roads to non-residents, a detriment to commuters and rental car users alike. We hoped that this ban would be challenged and not-so-secretly wished that neighboring city Fort Lee, NJ would retaliate against Leonia. Well, the legal challenge to Leonia's tactic came swiftly in a lawsuit filed by Jacqueline Rosa, a partner at Siegel Law. And while we wish the case was challenged by a government agency or an organization that supports travelers (you dropped the ball, AAA) -- those entities taking action would be worthy of an inspirational tune below the fold -- we think it's fantastic that a law partner would attack the case on a pro se basis. Heck, we will still throw in some Natalie Merchant for Ms. Rosa's efforts.  

We're not lawyers but we do know Ms. Rosa threw five challenges in her complaint, hoping one or more would stick. At six pages, it's one of the shorter filings we've read in quite a while but we entirely expect that it will be sufficient to strike down the Borough's "thou shalt not pass" edict and make Leonia the laughing stock of commuters in the New York region and beyond.  

  • Count 1 states that the road closures restrict freedom of travel and are arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. Our read (as non-lawyers) suggests this is the weakest challenge that should have been included in Count 2.
  • Count 2 cites N.J.S.A 39:4-8, whereby the state's Commissioner of Transportation has to approve any action that impacts the flow of traffic on state-owned roads and that municipalities have to inform neighboring municipalities of changes that impact inter-municipality transport.
  • Count 3 cites N.J.S.A. 39:4-197, the statute that articulates what municipalities can do without state permission (namely change speed limits, set specific roads to be one-way, and set up parking zones).
  • Count 4 cites N.J.S.A. 39:4-197.2, suggesting the borough had to get Bergen County's permission (in addition to the state's) by New Jersey statute.
  • Count 5 cites N.J.S.A. 39.4-94.2, which sets the maximum penalty for driving on a lawfully closed road at $100, not the $200 made up by the Borough of Leonia. Remember when we more than suggested this was simply a revenue measure for the Borough? Well, that revenue (plus court costs) is about to disappear ...

While the Borough's representatives refuse to discuss the pending litigation, the mayor suggests their road closure plan is "open to adjustments". All current evidence suggests the court is going to "adjust" their plan into non-existence. It's bad enough that a driver has to deal with a nationwide patchwork of tolling mechanisms; we can't afford to have almost 40,000 different permutations of municipal roadway restrictions in the United States!

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