By David Friedland
My father told me that in all the years he served as an Assemblyman he was not able , not once, to get any of the Bills he sponsored released from committee , much less voted upon. When I was first elected, I was determined to break the back of that system.
For most of pre-modern New Jersey, the Senate was controlled by Republicans. There were 21 counties and 21 Senators. The smallest county, Cape May had 58,000 or so voters. The Senate Republican Caucus was ruled over by Senator Hap Farley. He needed only 7 votes from the 7 Southern Counties to block all legislation. His 7 Senatorial votes were elected by voters in Counties having in total less population than Essex and Hudson combined. Thus for most of the history of New Jersey , it was impossible for the large urban areas to get any legislation passed. The minimum wage, and most legislation granting urban aid, languished while bill after bill passed appropriating money to kill Gypsy Moths, or to build highways, or schools in the Southern Counties. That is how the Republicans held on to their power.
As you know in 1963-1964 I started the One Man One Vote case that changed all that. I was a young lawyer. I asked Chris Jackman (who was then a client of our law firm) to serve as Plaintiff. He hesitated, fearing to look ridiculous. In the days following the filing of the lawsuit, we were ridiculed in the State Newspapers. The Jersey Journal and Star Ledger carried comments by some of the State’s most prominent attorneys claiming that my lawsuit was frivolous foolish vexatious litigation instituted by a boy lawyer. They opined that I had NO chance of winning. After all New Jersey had the little federal system. How could a Court possibly declare unconstitutional the very system permitted for federal elections?
Jackman twice threatened to withdraw. Later he claimed the suit was his own idea.
I argued the suit before the New Jersey Supreme Court. I left feeling like a nudist in a mosquito colony punctured by the Courts deft questions, I was deflated and certain I had lost.
The Chief Justice called my father and congratulated him “You should be proud of your son, Jake- he made an excellent argument”
I called the Chief the following day to complain. I told him that I was very upset that he said I had done well. He asked “Why?”
I said ” Mr. Chief Justice, when I left the Court, I was depressed. I went home. I told my wife that I done miserably and certainly lost the case and as a result ruined my career. Beth never questions my legal opinions. Now my father will tell her about your call. My wife will never trust my opinions again.
Shortly after the argument the Senate adopted a weight voting rule. Under it, we would still have 21 Senators but some Senators would have twice or even three times the vote of others. I filed another suit to have that declared unconstitutional.
The Chief asked me to describe the progress of the Legislature in obeying the Court’s Mandate.
I said ” Chief Justice, the legislature has not moved forward, nor has it moved backwards. It moved sideways, slowly…. like a crab!”
The Court declared the weighted voting system unconstitutional. The rest is history. Both houses of the legislature were redistricted. The Senate was increased to 40. Hudson received additional assemblymen and senators. For the first time in New Jersey’s History the large urban counties
had legislative power and shortly took control of the assembly with Maurice Brady (another of my clients ) as Speaker. The suit actually changed the dynamics of South Jersey politics as well and in recent years Democrats were elected in counties that had never failed to elect republicans. Indeed many of the Democrats who later castigated me for the deal I made with Tom Kean, were elected to seats created by the suit I brought.
Hap Farley era had ended forever. Or so I thought!
I reintroduced updated versions of most of the bills my father had fought for unsuccessfully during his 12 year stint in the legislature, including a number of my own.
I could not get my bills out of committee for a vote.
Maury Brady , my own client, and Speaker would not allow my bills to be voted upon.
So, I did the unthinkable. I challenged and then upbraided the Speaker publicly, and literally caused parliamentary chaos. It became so heated, Brady complained to Kenny. Kenny called me into the hospital. Asked me what I was doing. I told him. He laught. He said “Go for it kid!
The result? Bill Musto reintroduced some of my bills under his own name, and allowed me to cosponsor them.
In or about the same time I was retained by Lenny Bruce to argue the appeal of his conviction for pornography in New York.
He wanted me to argue that the only word in his act that was NOT obscene was the word “mother-fucker” He said he uttered it in the idiom of the negroes, and as such it was a term of affection. He told me. “The only word in my act that is obscene is the word ‘BUT’. It is the universal subtractor. It denies meaning whenever it is used. I love you….but. I would do that for you but……..”
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