(Photo: The Express-Times)
Sticker Shock—A Kentucky woman hit with a $56 traffic ticket for driving a van cluttered with political stickers, snow globes and other paraphernalia has a clean slate.
On Sept. 12, 2012, Lynda Farley of Edmonton, Ky., was driving home from 9/11 remembrance ceremonies in New York City in her "Liberty Van," a 2004 Nissan Quest. A New Jersey state trooper pulled her over, took issue with a garland of flowers surrounding Farley's front windshield and issued her a ticket for obstructed views.
Farley tried to fight the ticket in Allamuchy Municipal Court in March, telling Judge Louis Mellinger the trooper was unclear about what constituted obstructed driving. Mellinger ordered her to pay the ticket.
But after a trial de novo on Dec. 3, Warren County Superior Court Judge Ann Bartlett threw out the ticket, finding state law requires only that front windows and windshield to be unobstructed.
Bartlett nonetheless indicated she was not a fan of the decked-out vehicle. "Ms. Farley, I wouldn't want my grandchildren walking behind your car," The Express-Times of Easton, Pa., reported her as saying.
Farley's lawyer, Randolph Norris of Phillipsburg's Norris & Norris, says pictures taken of the van during the 9/11 ceremonies gave Bartlett a clear view of what was and was not covered.
He says Farley has 368,000 miles on her vehicle and no moving violations elsewhere. He says she looked for clarity in the law "because she didn't want to remove anything she didn't have to."
Tobacco Tax—A proposed new law would authorize municipalities to make smoking in public a civil offense for which a penalty can be imposed in lieu of criminal prosecution.
The current statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-13, makes smoking in public or in delineated restricted areas a petty disorderly persons offense, carrying a $200 fine, up to 30 days in jail, or both.
The bill, S-3065, introduced on Dec. 5 by Sen. Robert Gordon, D-Bergen, would continue the prohibition and penalty but allow towns to collect a $200 fine as an alternative to prosecution.
The state statute bans smoking in any public place, including but not limited to places of public accommodation, where such smoking is prohibited by municipal ordinance.
To avail itself of the amended law, a municipality would have to adopt its own ordinance that penalizes smoking in designated places without making it a criminal offense or subjecting an offender to possible incarceration.
Workers' Society—A New Jersey law preventing employers from asking current or prospective employees for their social media information took effect on Dec. 1, but you might want to check with your boss before you start checking Facebook on company time.
Though employers are not allowed to require disclosure of user names and passwords to networking websites such as Twitter and LinkedIn, they can enforce a policy on use of employer-issued electronic communications devices and accounts or services set up for business purposes.
Anyone accused of work-related misconduct or unauthorized transfer of company secrets may be forced to hand over passwords so employers can further investigate.
The law does not cover anything in the public domain, so anything not made private on networking sites is up for review.
The law, A-2878, as adopted Aug. 29, is more employer-friendly than when it was introduced. The original version, vetoed May 6 by Gov. Chris Christie, prevented even asking about the existence of social media accounts.
The consequences of breaking the law are also lighter than before. Violators face a maximum $1,000 fine for the first offense and a maximum $2,500 fine for subsequent ones. The original law would have allowed civil suits for violations, with the ability to obtain damages, legal fees and injunctive relief.
Pony Up—A Newton stable saw its $6,685 judgment against a client reversed on appeal because it violated a court rule against pro se appearances by corporations in the Special Civil Part.
Spring Valley Equestrian Center in Sussex County sued Peggy Farley after she fell behind in paying her horse's monthly boarding charge. The stable's president, Charles McWhirter, a nonlawyer, was named plaintiff at the start of trial and acted pro se.
Farley did not object to McWhirter appearing without counsel, but when she was hit with the judgment by Superior Court Judge William McGovern III, she appealed.
On Dec. 5, Appellate Division Judges Ellen Koblitz and Amy O'Connor agreed with Farley that McWhirter violated Rule 1:21-1(c), which states that "a business entity, other than a sole proprietorship, must be represented by an attorney authorized to practice" in New Jersey.
"A judgment is voidable at the election of the adverse party" on violation of the rule, they wrote, finding Farley's silence at trial about McWhirter's lack of counsel did not moot her appeal.
— By Jennifer Genova