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Superior Court Rules that Sea Bright Challenge Will Continue

Former Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams’ challenge to the result of the 2007 general election will proceed to trial.  The opponent had filed a motion to dismiss Mayor Adams’ petition due to a perceived procedural technicality.  The Superior Court judge hearing the case ruled that the case will continue forward.  The voters of Sea Bright will now have a chance to see justice done.

The Borough of Sea Bright is a charming beach town along the Monmouth County shore line.  Jo-Ann Kalaka Adams served one successful term, and sought a second one in the November 2007 general election.  The race ended in a near-tie on election night.  The phone calls came in the days following the election raised the spectre that Mayor Kalaka-Adams actually won the election.

Mayor Kalaka-Adams filed for a recount.  Together with the Sea Bright GOP Chair, she pored through election records, and were stunned to find that several non-resident voters had voted, enough to have tipped the balance of the election.  Furthermore, she had received reports that at least one registered voter had been denied access to the polls.  As such, she decided to file an election challenge.

Mayor Kalaka-Adams was facing a very worthy adversary.  Her election opponent had brought in the services of Hill Wallack, a firm listed by as the seventh most powerful law firm in New Jersey.  Appearing from Hill Wallack was Paul Josephson, Esq., former counsel to the governor, and one of the top most effective and most ethical election law attorneys in the state.  Ms. Kalaka-Adams came to Howes & Howes to handle the election challenge.

Our opponent raised a procedural issue to try to defeat the challenge.  There is a rarely-used and ancient provision of the election laws which requires a $500 bond to be posted when someone files an election challenge petition.  Mayor Kalaka-Adams stood ready, willing and able to post the $500.  Nevertheless, the opponent made a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that Mayor Kalaka-Adams did not post the $500 with the petition.

Following briefing and argumentation, the court denied the motion, holding that “(t)he draconian remedy of dismissal of a petition challenging an election result bacause no bond or surety has been posted at the outset belies sixty plus years of higher court precedent.”

The court’s decision will allow the case to proceed to trial, where the court will be able to determine whether non-resident voters voted, and whether two legal voters were improperly rejected.  At trial, the court can (1) uphold the election; (2) order a new election; or (3) rule that Mayor Kalaka-Adams was the winner.


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