Is Andover Township breaking the law?
Well if it isn't against the law, it should be.
Here's the deal. Take an ill-tempered, tough-guy, former marine -- he's the deputy mayor of the town -- and his two buddies (another of the town's elected officials and the wannabe boss of the county freeholder board). Now these three big men decide to seek out and accost another man, which they do. The man they accost is older, minding his own business, and not bothering them.
The freeholder comes up, puts his arm around the old guy, and tells him that he's pissed off about something he saw on a blog. Then the two from Andover come up and repeat the words the freeholder used. The deputy mayor says that he's going to start a "veterans' group" to get rid of the old guy they targeted.
(A veterans' group? You mean like the S.A.? The Sturmabteilung? After all, this is occurring at the former American Nazi Bund camp in Andover Township, New Jersey -- Camp Nordland.)
Then the other Andover honcho says that he'd like to punch somebody in the mush. (Some girls think this kind of talk is a real turn on.)
The marine goads the old guy, gets worked up, and when the old guy puts his hand on the marine's shoulder to calm him down, the marine acts like he's been caught wearing a trainer bra -- hollers "don't touch me" (the marine claims he also used the improbable "no means no" -- yes, this is a man we are talking about) and then storms out, back in, and out again -- before going off to find the town police chief he had spent the night drinking with.
The marine files a police report but when they don't do what he wants, he files a personal complaint with the town administrative court employees, whose jobs he controls because he hires them and sets their pay because he's the deputy mayor.
Now here's where it gets interesting -- and possibly illegal.
The old guy they accosted gets an illegible, hand-written notice in the mail from Andover Township. He writes back and asks what he's been accused of doing. His question is ignored, so he sends certified letters to Andover Township, the administrator, and the judge, asking for a copy of the complainant's statement and the probable cause documents. Still no answer. So he hires a lawyer and she asks for the details of what her client has done. Nothing.
But wait, somebody has let the newspapers know about it -- and it is there that they, client and attorney, read excerpts from the documents they requested. Good thing somebody from Andover Township gave in to the newspapers, because otherwise the old guy they accused wouldn't know what he was accused of doing. But the lawyer isn't satisfied, she wants the official legal documents, so she asks again, and again, and she gets... ignored.
But wait, there's a new story about it in the newspaper -- and still no answer 41 days after the request was first made by the old guy to be told what it is that he's been accused of doing. And here's the punch line...
Early on the old guy wrote to the administrative court in Trenton to complain about how he wasn't getting the basic information (like what he was accused of doing) he needed to mount a defense. The court took a while, but an Assignment Judge of the Superior Court named Stuart A. Minkowitz did get back to him. He had been asked by the Administrative Judge to take the matter in hand and he did and determined that there was "a potential conflict of interest in both the Township of Sparta and its conflict venue, the Township of Andover. To ensure the Judiciary maintains a high degree of integrity and to avoid any appearance of partiality or conflict of interest in the adjudication of this case, venue in this matter has been transferred to the Municipal Court of the Township of Wantage for probable cause determination."
What? Probable cause hasn't been determined? Well suffering succotash, those one-sided newspaper articles didn't read that way!
Look, this is pretty darn basic. In America, in the good old U.S. of A., it is a given that when you accuse someone of doing something wrong and you want to say he committed a crime, it is expected that you have to tell him what it is that you accused him of doing. You can't just sit back and deny him and his attorney the information week after week -- so that you can issue press releases about it and give the guy bad press. Even if you are the deputy mayor of a benighted place like Andover Township, New Jersey, this is supposed to be about justice not the political game that it's been turned it into.
Then again, this is Andover Township, one of the few places in America where once-upon-a-time you could hear a chorus sing the Horst Wessel Lied on a weekly basis. This goes out to all you boys and girls in Andoverland...