Recall drama continues to play out

Petitioners’ attorney says judge erred, asks for
new hearing to reverse ruling and $80,000 fine.

By Cory Nealon, The Daily Press – 2/19/2009

GLOUCESTER — Two months have passed since the last courtroom drama, yet Gloucester County remains a flurry of legal activity.

L. Steven Emmert, who represents 40 Gloucester petitioners, has requested a hearing to argue that Circuit Court Judge Westbrook J. Parker erred when fining his clients $2,000 each. The petitioners unsuccessfully tried to remove four county supervisors from office.

Meanwhile, the written version of Parker’s order — the document necessary for the petitioners to begin an appeal — is ready to be filed.

Emmert plans to argue that 39 of the petitioners were not represented in court on Dec. 17, when Parker accused them of misusing the judicial system for political pursuits.

In documents filed in Gloucester County Circuit Court, Emmert said that John “Jack” T. Randall, as the substitute commonwealth’s attorney, represented the Commonwealth, not the petitioners. Therefore, Randall’s involvement doesn’t extend to arguing on behalf of the individual petitioners about the $80,000 fine.

Emmert argues the petitioners — with the exception of Elizabeth Ould, who had a private attorney represent her — didn’t have the opportunity to defend themselves against Parker’s ruling.

He also requested that Parker not file his ruling until the judge decides whether to grant the hearing.

Anthony Troy, who represents supervisors Teresa Altemus and Michelle Ressler, said he opposes the hearing.

“We believe everything Mr. Emmert raised in the court has already been heard and considered,” he said.

Accordingly, Troy has asked Parker to sign the order, which the judge received on Tuesday. If Parker doesn’t grant the hearing, Emmert will file an appeal on behalf of the petitioners, including Ould.

He will argue that:

• The petitions were brought to court by the state, which certified the signatures, not the petitioners.

• The petitioners were justified to attempt to remove the supervisors.

• Parker’s order violates the First and 14th amendments of the Constitution.

• Parker’s decision to nonsuit (a form of dismissal) the petitions does not allow him to fine the petitioners.

• The fine cannot be used to defray defense attorney fees from the criminal case (the failed indictment of the four supervisors, who also include Bobby Crewe and Gregory Woodard).

Emmert said the petitioners should not be punished for their actions.

“Citizens have a right to do this,” he said.