U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton of the District of New Jersey
(Courtesy photo)

The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, a bi-state agency of New York and New Jersey, was created by a compact between the two states authorized by the Congress in 1953. The purpose of the compact was to vest in the agency powers with which to address the rampant and pervasive corruption on the waterfront. Since that time, as described in detail by Judge Wigenton in her opinion issued on June 1, 2018 (granting the commission’s motion for a preliminary injunction and denying cross-motions of Gov. Murphy, Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Coughlin), the commission has pursued numerous investigations, many of which resulted in convictions of people for conducting illegal activities in the port, including labor racketeering, illegal gambling, loansharking and murder.

In late 2017 and early 2018, the Senate and General Assembly of New Jersey passed bills which purported to cause New Jersey to withdraw from the compact and dissolve the commission.  On his last day in office, Gov. Christie signed the bill into law. One day later, the commission filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey seeking a declaration that the bill was invalid, void and without force and effect, and requesting preliminary and permanent injunctive relief enjoining the governor from implementing or enforcing the bill. Following submissions of briefs and cross-motions to dismiss the complaint, Judge Wigenton held a show cause hearing on Feb. 22, 2018 and then reserved decision.

Following a lengthy and scholarly review of the law relative to standing and the authority to bring the action before her, Judge Wigenton concluded that the commission had established a likelihood that it would succeed on the merits of the case and that it would suffer irreparable harm if injunctive relief were not granted pending a resolution of the case. Judge Wigenton concluded that the commission had not only demonstrated that it would suffer irreparable harm unless Gov. Murphy were enjoined from implementing the aforementioned bill, she also concluded that it was in the public interest for the commission to continue its investigative and regulatory work, the record making clear that organized crime is still prevalent on the waterfront and that labor racketeering and corruption were still very much in existence. Accordingly, Judge Wigenton concluded that, “…it is in the public interest for the Commission to continue its investigatory and regulatory work.” The court thus granted a preliminary injunction so as to “…preserve the status quo of a sixty-five-year-old Compact that embodies a concerted effort between New Jersey, New York and Congress during the pendency of this matter.” We applaud Judge Wigenton’s decision and look forward to the continuation of the commission and the regulatory work with which it continues to be intimately involved.

Lawrence Lustberg and Edwin Stern recused from this editorial.