The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders will issue a request for proposals from attorneys or law firms interested in representing the county in a potential legal action against the state.
On Oct. 10, the freeholders voted 5-0 to seek proposals from legal professionals. County Counsel Michael Fitzgerald said the legal action the county may file against the state is “outside the course of normal business” and that is why outside counsel is being sought.
Freeholder Director Tom Arnone and freeholders Susan Kiley, Lillian Burry, Gerry Scharfenberger and Patrick Impreveduto voted “yes” on a motion to seek proposals from legal firms.
According to a resolution the freeholders passed, the Monmouth County jail, which is operated by the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, has been participating in a federal program referred to as 287(g).
A memorandum of understanding between the sheriff’s office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “delegates nominated, trained, certified and authorized personnel from the sheriff’s office to perform certain immigration enforcement functions,” according to the resolution.
Through a directive issued on Sept. 27, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal prohibited state, county and local law officers from entering into, modifying or extending a 287(g) agreement with ICE.
According to the resolution, the freeholders and the sheriff believe the directive “is in direct conflict with the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution” and that the county’s participation in the 287(g) program “has made the streets of Monmouth County safer for our residents and has permitted ICE to detain and prosecute individuals who are charged with serious crimes and pose a significant threat to our community.”
According to merriam-webster.com, the Supremacy Clause is “a clause in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution that declares the constitution, laws and treaties of the federal government to be the supreme law of the land to which judges in every state are bound regardless of state law to the contrary.”
The freeholders said they may want to challenge the state on the implementation of the directive which will now prohibit the county’s participation in the 287(g) program.
Monmouth County Counsel Michael Fitzgerald has been directed to accept and review all proposals that are submitted by attorneys or law firms and to brief the freeholders in executive (closed) session on Oct. 24.
“We are doing our due diligence. We have to look at what our sheriff is doing. I think he’s doing the right thing” by participating in the 287(g) program at the jail, Arnone said, and the other freeholders agreed with that assessment.
The freeholders said the attorney or law firm that is selected through this process will “be authorized to move forward in filing suit on behalf of the county as soon as practicable thereafter.”
During public comment, Itzel Perez of Red Bank spoke in support of terminating the county’s participation in the 287(g) program and objected to the filing of a lawsuit against the attorney general.
In 2018, Grewal issued the Immigrant Trust Directive to all state, county and local law enforcement agencies. The directive limits the types of voluntary assistance those agencies’ officers may provide to federal civil immigration authorities, including ICE.
Grewal has said the new rules, which took effect in March, were designed to strengthen trust among New Jersey’s law enforcement officers and immigrant communities.
The directive applies to state and local police officers, corrections officers working in state prisons and county jails, and state and county prosecutors.
Grewal followed up on his initial directive by issuing the directive that prohibits state, county and local law officers from entering into a 287(g) agreement with ICE, or from modifying or extending an existing 287(g) agreement with ICE.