Friday, September 16, 2011

Larry's impressions from Tuesday's hearing

The third conference hearing in the Tent City matter took place Tuesday in Court Room Three with Superior Court Judge Joseph Foster presiding.
Early in the hearing Lakewood threw out a surprise when its attorney announced it was electing to file a court motion on the ejection matter to throw the people out of Tent City. He said Lakewood wanted a ruling on the legality of the homeless being on the township property. He added that if the court ruled in the town's favor that would not necessarily mean they would seek immediate enforcement of the decision.

Essentially there are two cases under one docket, said the county's attorney Jean Cipriani. One case involves Lakewood and its desire to see Tent City and its residents gone. The second is to answer the question: does the county have an obligation to house the homeless?

The county maintains that it does do something for the homeless. And they do serve many people, upwards of 1,100 people, according to the county. But they do not do something for everybody, homeless advocates say. Many people are turned away and given advice to find refuge in Tent City, allege some of the homeless. The coalition members believe that by reallocating funds and initiating new programs all the homeless can be housed.

There is still a lot of wrangling going on, and Judge Foster said he would like to get to the point quickly in this litigation.

As to how he'll get there he said he's the new judge in the case and he has a different approach than Judge Vincent Grasso, who presided over the first two hearings.

Judge Foster said he wants to have the amended complaints from attorney Jeff Wild, who with his firm Lowenstein-Sandler, is working pro bono for the homeless.

After Tuesday's hearing the attorneys met to discuss a timetable for the county to provide the materials Wild requested, then after his review they would settle on a date for him to submit his amended complaint. Following their conference they agreed the Board of Social Service will produce the requested documents that it considers disclosable under OPRA by Sept. 27. Wild will file his amended complaint by Oct. 27. And the next conference hearing will be held Nov. 15 @ 9 a.m.

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