SO Village Promises Swift Action on JAC Ruling

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The Village of South Orange will move quickly to contravene a judge’s actions last week allowing the Jersey Animal Coalition to reopen its shelter and halt eviction procedures.

In response to questions from two members of the public at a Board of Trustees special meeting Monday night July 14, Village Administrator Barry Lewis said that the village would not wait until an August 20 court date but would take action within the next week in hopes of dissolving at least part of Judge Dennis Carey III’s “emergent relief” ruling last week allowing the JAC to resume operations.

One woman, a resident of Union County, asked, “Is this going to go on until August?”

She said that while she felt that it was a good thing that the shelter was adopting out animals, she was “surprised to see the shelter back open.” She asked, “Is the town going to do anything or ride it out until August?”

A hearing date has been set for August 20 in Superior Court of Essex County in Newark.

Lewis responded, “In terms of the timing, the emergent relief was granted without notice to the village and without input from the village.” Lewis said that the village was finalizing its response “in the next couple of days” with the aim “to dissolve some of the rulings.”

Lewis continued, “I can categorically state a number of inaccurate statements, outright falsehoods, and glaring omissions” in the papers submitted by JAC attorney William Strazza to the Superior Court judge requesting emergent relief. Lewis said he was confident that when all the facts are known “the judge will take the appropriate steps.”

The shelter had been closed since March when the township issued the quarantine for what officials said were more than 50 health code violations. The Village then discovered the JAC also had various leasing and personnel violations, according to Deputy Administrator Adam Loehner.

On June 27, the Village sent the JAC a letter stating it had ten days to resolve the issues before eviction proceedings would be initiated on July 9.

On July 7, the JAC filed documents for “emergent relief” citing the unconstitutionality of the South Orange Code among other things. The documents stated that “the relative hardship to the parties is not even a close call…. In fact, if anything, there is nothing but benefit to South Orange and its residents if temporary relief is granted” — namely the benefits of being able to adopt and rescue animals.

Lewis disagrees and seeks to act quickly.

“I do anticipate something much more immediate — as early as next week to dissolve some of those preliminary things based on [the judge’s] reliance on factually inaccurate papers.”

Later, Lewis pointed out to Village Green what he felt was the Strazza’s most glaringly mistake: continually referring to an April 10, 2014 inspection in his filing papers, when the inspection had taken place on April 13, 2013.

Lewis said that the Village will be submitting its filing to the court next week and that it is the “judge’s call if we must come in” for a court hearing.

The Board was also asked by a public commenter if the village had received a necropsy report on a shelter animal named Lickety Split. Lewis replied that, as yet, the village had not received the report, but “[w]e will be looking into that and will get any available information through the courts or not.”

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