A New Jersey appellate court vacated a contempt finding against a man who refused to remove his knit ski cap in Egg Harbor City, N.J., municipal court for religious reasons.
The court found that the adjudication of contempt—which carried a $50 fine—was procedurally defective since Egg Harbor City Municipal Court Judge William Cappuccio failed to adhere to procedural requirements. This decision was made public in an August 15 Order signed by Appellate Division Judges Paulette Sapp-Peterson and Marie Lihotz.
According to the Appellate Division, “We do not believe that wearing of what the municipal judge called a ‘ski cap’ during the proceeding compelled invocation of the extraordinary judicial contempt powers to summarily adjudicate defendant’s conduct.”
Alexander Shalom of the American Civil Liberties Union-New Jersey brought the appeal. He contended that the man’s freedom of religion was violated even though the defendant, who calls himself an “Orthodox Christian,” is not technically part of any organized religious group.
This decision is being hailed as a huge victory for civil libertarians and criminal defendants everywhere.
Shalom noted in an ACLU press release, “[G]iven the judiciary’s scarce resources, it is disappointing that we needed to twice argue before the Superior Court and twice file appeals with the Appellate Division in order to vindicate basic principles of due process and religious freedom. But, in the end, we’re pleased that the courts properly protected Mr. Graham’s rights.”
During a criminal trial, many of your legal rights will be at stake. Whether your case is for something as small as a disorderly conduct charge or as large as a criminal appeal, it is crucial to hire a skilled New Jersey criminal attorney to help you at every step of the way.
If you recently were charged with a crime in New Jersey, contact Rosenblum Law today at 888-815-3649.