Harassment and Protected Speech (Part 2)

by | Nov 4, 2023 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate Division continued in relevant part: The judge’s suggestion that plaintiff had a right to not be subjected to anonymous phone calls, threats, or picketing at his house–especially absent evidence that defendant made calls herself or distributed plaintiff’s contact information–is likewise insufficient to render defendant’s speech unlawful. Only the #FREE[L.B.B.] photo image, which the judge did not attribute to defendant, identified plaintiff’s hometown, not the video. Moreover, there was no direct evidence of a link between the creation of the video, the dissemination of the video, and plaintiff’s receipt of anonymous phone calls. In any event, the acts of identifying an individual, encouraging others to call them and urge them to change their behavior, and picketing in their hometown are protected activities under Keefe, 402 U.S. at 417, 419.

Although the judge found that get refusers, like plaintiff’s father, were at risk of imprisonment, there is no such offense in our penal code. Israeli courts–where marriage and divorce are governed exclusively by religious law–retain the power to impose sanctions including fines or jail sentences for get refusal. Jodi M. Solovy, Civil Enforcement of Jewish Marriage and Divorce: Constitutional Accommodation of a Religious Mandate, 45 DePaul L. Rev. 493, 501 n.59 (1996). “Israeli law gives rabbinical courts the authority to issue certain sanctions to pressure a non-consenting spouse to give consent to a get.” Ben-Haim v. Edri, (App. Div. 2018). No such risk exists in state courts, as it is a fundamental principle that civil courts may not become entangled in religious proceedings “if resolution requires the interpretation of religious doctrine.” RanDav’s Cnty. Kosher v. State (1992); see also Satz v. Satz, ___ N.J. Super. ___, ___ (App. Div. 2023) (slip op. at 16-18) (rejecting the ex-husband’s argument that the trial court violated his First Amendment rights by enforcing the provisions of a marital settlement agreement, rather than a religious contract, in which the parties agreed to participate in a beth din proceeding to obtain a get that the ex-wife sought).

Keefe concerned the actions of a rea estate broker in the Chicago area in the 1970s. He was alleged to have disseminated communications warning white residents that blacks were moving into their neighbors. He is alleged to have done so to encourage white residents to hire him to help sell their homes. The United States Supreme Court reversed the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision to permit an injunction against Keefe.