Grewal Will Be Good for N.J., but Not Mahwah

The Record (Bergen County, NJ), December 13, 2017 | Go to article overview

Grewal Will Be Good for N.J., but Not Mahwah


Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal is Gov.-elect Phil Murphy's choice for state attorney general. It's a brilliant decision. If Murphy wanted to set the tone early that his attorney general would be quick to stand up for minority voices in New Jersey, this is it. Murphy made his pick public Tuesday.

And it's worth mentioning that Grewal was appointed to his current position by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. At his best, Christie was a powerful advocate for a diverse judiciary. He took a lot of heat in 2011 when he nominated Sohail Mohammed, a Muslim, to the bench of the Superior Court. Grewal was another smart choice.

But Christie's choice, now Murphy's choice, is not going to be celebrated everywhere. I don't think there is dancing in the streets of Mahwah, or at least in their town parks.

This summer, Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli asked Grewal in his capacity as county prosecutor whether a new municipal ordinance that would ban non-state residents from using the town's parks was legally enforceable. Grewal told Batelli the ordinance could lead to racial profiling and unlawful searches and could illegally target out-of-state Orthodox Jews. That last point was really the whole purpose of the ordinance, despite the many revisionist explanations by town officials.

Batelli was chastised for going to Grewal for an opinion. Town officials — aside from Mayor Bill Laforet — said Batelli should have enforced the ordinance and not sought advice from the county prosecutor. Things have been ugly in Mahwah since an out-of-state organization sought to extend an eruv — a religious boundary — into the town, in addition to several other north Bergen County communities.

Mahwah voters didn't seem to mind that state Attorney General Chris Porrino filed a nine-count lawsuit against the town because of the eruv ban and the park ordinance or that then-candidate Phil Murphy penned an opinion piece in a Jewish newspaper decrying anti-Semitism in all forms and the eruv battle in Mahwah in particular. Incumbents on the Township Council — all supporting the ban and park ordinance — handily won reelection.

Voters were not concerned about the cost of pending litigation. But the election of Murphy as governor and the announcement that Grewal will be his attorney general should at least send Mahwah residents to their bank statements — it's not going to be a cheap fight.

Christie has stayed out of the eruv matter. …

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