Jersey City ward map to stay after dismissal of lawsuit

Opponents consider an appeal, the mayor praises dismissal of action he called "shameful from the start"

The controversial ward map will be here to stay in Jersey City after the lawsuit was tossed out. Photo by Mark Koosau.

Jersey City’s controversial ward map will be here to stay for the rest of the decade after a state judge tossed out a lawsuit that attempted to overturn the map.

Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph Turula dismissed the lawsuit, filed by a coalition of groups and Councilman Frank Gilmore against the creators of the map, at the William J. Brennan Courthouse today with prejudice, meaning another complaint cannot be filed.

The map had been met with controversy since its adoption earlier in January, with a number of people criticizing the map for undertaking gerrymandering, both politically and racially, as well as a lack of transparency in the process.

The plaintiffs had attempted to argue that the Jersey City Ward Commission, who drew the map after the 2020 Census, had violated state law when drawing the map and was politically retaliatory against Gilmore.

The commissions, which consisted of City Clerk Sean Gallagher and six members from the Hudson County Board of Elections, sought to dismiss the lawsuit. The chair of the commission, John Minella, is also Mayor Steven Fulop’s chief of staff.

During his rendering, Judge Turula dismissed the original lawsuit and another that was brought forth by plaintiff James Calderon, dismissing each of the arguments in the original complaint.

Among the arguments included violating the Open Public Meetings Act, that the wards aren’t “compact and continuous,” and that the map was retaliatory against Gilmore after he unseated a Fulop-back incumbent last year, amongst other points.

Councilman Frank Gilmore said he was disappointed by the ruling, but opened the possibility of appealing it. Photo by Mark Koosau.

After the ruling, Gilmore said to reporters that he was disappointed by the decision, but that it doesn’t “stop the work and advocacy.” “You can’t hold justice down for long,” he said. “At some point justice is going to prevail. Sometimes it’s delayed justice. But nonetheless, the people will have the last say.”

He also said that there’s a possibility that the decision will be appealed, and that he’ll meet with his team to see where it goes from there.

Former Councilman Chris Gadsden, who had also led efforts behind the lawsuit, said that he was also a “little disappointed” and they’re looking to see what the next steps are. “The ward law has never been challenged in the state of New Jersey,” he said. “The work that we did over the last couple of weeks and months, that’s important work.”

Mayor Fulop himself called Judge Turula’s decision “the correct decision” on Twitter. “This was a ridiculous lawsuit from the beginning that a small group of political people pushed to mislead the public that something improper occurred,” he wrote.

“It was shameful from the start, layered with absurd accusations that had very little merit or substance,” he continued. “Really glad all this nonsense was dismissed ENTIRELY.”

Jersey City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione also said after the ruling that the judge “carefully considered and dismissed all of the plaintiff’s arguments, which is a good outcome for residents as we can all now continue focusing on the important work of moving all of Jersey City forward.”

Barring any more legal action, the new map will be used for the 2025 and the 2029 city elections.

For updates on this and other stories, check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.