On September 23, 2008, the New Jersey Supreme Court entertained oral argument in the case of State v. DeAngelo, A-73-07, wherein the issues of labor protesting and free speech collide. The case involves a union official who was fined for displaying a 10-foot tall, inflatable rat at a Lawrence Township labor rally, thereby claiming the municipality violated his constitutional and statutory rights.

Wayne DeAngelo, a senior official with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 269, was fined $100 and assessed $33 in court costs for using the balloon to protest a gym being built without union labor. DeAngelo asked the Court to declare the ordinance in question, which prohibits “banners, pennants streamers, pinwheels, or similar devices; vehicle signs, portable signs, balloon signs or other inflated signs (except grand opening signs)”, unconstitutional and violative of the National Labor Relations Act. The trial court and the Appellate Division have rejected the challenge, finding the ordinance a valid time, place, and manner restriction on commercial speech.

At the hearing, DeAngelo asserted the ordinance was “overbroad” because it prohibits all forms of signs used in protests, while allowing a variety of other signs, such as political and industrial signs and those at grand openings and real estate sales. In response, the Township asserted the ordinance and its enforcement were both within constitutional bounds, namely because DeAngelo’s use of the rat balloon amounted to commercial speech, which can be regulated.

Despite its listed exceptions, Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto said the ordinance appeared strictly worded and content-neutral. Conversely, Justice Barry Albin seemed troubled by the ordinance because it gave the gym owner permission to use an inflatable sign to announce his grand opening, but barred labor protesters from using inflatable signs at the same location. It will be interesting to see how the Court ultimately rules and addresses the intersection of these important issues. Undoubtedly, the case will be followed closely by labor organizations, who want to ensure their rights are adequately protected. 


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Photo of Frank M. Crivelli Frank M. Crivelli

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state…

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state, county and local law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers.

Mr. Crivelli specializes his individual practice in collective negotiations.  Over the past twenty (20) years, Mr. Crivelli has negotiated well over one hundred (100) collective bargaining agreements for various state, county, municipal and private organizations and has resolved over thirty-five (35) labor agreements that have reached impasse through compulsory interest arbitration.  Mr. Crivelli routinely litigates matters in front of the New Jersey State Public Employment Relations Commission, the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, third party neutrals for mediation, grievance and interest arbitration, the Superior Court of New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Mr. Crivelli founded and created the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog (www.njpublicsafetyofficers.com) approximately fifteen (15) years ago where he and members of his firm routinely publish blog posts regarding legal issues related to the employment of New Jersey Public Safety Officers.  The blog now contains over six hundred (600) articles and is reviewed and relied upon by thousands of public employees.  Mr. Crivelli has also published books and manuals pertaining to New Jersey Public Employee Disability Pension Appeals and the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation System. Currently, he is drafting a publication on how to Prepare and Negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  He lectures annually at the New Jersey State PBA Collective Bargaining Seminar, the National Association of Police Organization’s Legal Seminar, the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission Seminar on Public Employment Labor Law, the United States Marine Corps’ Commander’s Media Training Symposium and to Union Executive Boards and General Membership bodies on various labor related topics.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Crivelli joined the United States Marine Corps where he served as a Judge Advocate with the Legal Services Support Section of the First Force Services Support Group in Camp Pendleton, California.  While serving in the Marine Corps, Mr. Crivelli defended and prosecuted hundreds of Special and General Court Martial cases and administrative separation matters.  In addition to his trial duties, Mr. Crivelli was also charged with the responsibility of training various Marine and Naval combat command elements on the interpretation and implementation of the rules of engagement for various military conflicts that were ongoing throughout the world at that time. After leaving active duty, Mr. Crivelli remained in the Marine Corps Reserves where he was promoted to the rank of Major before leaving the service.

For the past fifteen (15) years, Mr. Crivelli has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court for the State of New Jersey, a certification which less than two percent (2%) of the attorneys in New Jersey have achieved.  He is a graduate of Washington College (B.A.), the City University of New York School of Law (J.D.), the United States Naval Justice School, and the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation.