Lawsuit Challenges Governor on Behalf of Shuttered Businesses

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Governor Phil Murphy. Photo by Rich Hundley III, Trentonian

MORRIS PLAINS — Six months after Governor Phil Murphy issued numerous Executive Orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lawsuit filed on Wednesday, September 23 in the Sussex County Superior Court, Law Division, is seeking a declaratory judgment against the Governor.

Darlene Pallay of Franklin Borough

The suit was filed by Robert W. Ferguson, Esq., of the law firm of Stern, Kilcullen, and Rufolo, LLC of Florham Park and Catherine M. Brown, Esq., of Denville, on behalf of a kickboxing studio owned by Darlene Pallay of Franklin Borough. The complaint against Murphy challenges actions taken in his earliest emergency orders, Executive Orders 103, 104, and 107, invoking the Disaster Control Act. (Click here to download lawsuit)

The Governor took control of the private property for the public benefit but violated the law for not implementing the compensation program mandated by the Act. Ferguson and Brown said the State cannot use private property for the greater good without paying the business owner reasonable compensation. Otherwise, they said it is a “fundamentally unjust imposition on a private citizen.”

Additionally, the attorneys stated, Murphy’s Executive Orders violate both State and Federal Constitutions. “Beginning on March 16 with Executive Order 104, Governor Murphy decided to use the power given to him by the Act, to order businesses that he deemed ‘non-essential’ to close and to later reopen with severe restrictions,” Ferguson said. “But he did not follow the law, because he did not order that the affected property owners be compensated, forcing private owners to pay for a public benefit.

In essence, the Governor’s edicts, as he has ruled for the last six months, have been paid for by New Jersey’s small businesses.” The lawsuit was filed through the stewardship of the newly incorporated group Rescue New Jersey, formed by several Morris and Sussex County residents who were inspired by the concerns of New Jersey State Senator Joe Pennacchio, R.-26th Dist., of the impact of Murphy’s Executive Orders overall on the rights and quality of life of New Jersey’s families and businesses. For more information about the lawsuit, including court documents; and about Rescue New Jersey click here.