Morrison, J.d.c., Temporarily Assigned.
This is the return of an order to show cause which contained a temporary restraint directed to defendant Borough of North Arlington restraining it from interfering with plaintiff Helen Sudol recording or taping its public meetings.
This matter was heard in full on October 7, 1975, the return of the order to show cause, and I find the following facts:
Plaintiff Helen Sudol is the owner of property located at 21 Lincoln Avenue, North Arlington, New Jersey; she is a member of a group entitled "Alert Citizens of North Arlington" and, in fact, is the president of said group. This suit was originally instituted by Helen Sudol on her own behalf and on behalf of all other taxpayers of the borough. The class action phase of this matter was abandoned by plaintiff and she proceeds as though it were her individual suit.
The American Civil Liberties Union applied for and was granted the right to file a brief amicus curiae. Its brief has been most helpful to the court in deciding the issues presented here.
The testimony shows that on August 4, 1975 plaintiff attended the borough clerk's office, spoke to Borough Clerk House personally and requested the minutes of the municipality for the meetings of July. She was thereupon informed that the minutes had not been transcribed beyond April. There were no minutes for review for May, June or July. The fact that the borough's minutes were not transcribed for periods of two to four months is borne out by the testimony of the clerk himself.
Plaintiff, as a taxpayer, recorded the proceedings of the June meeting on a portable self-contained, self-powered tape recorder and was warned by one of the borough's officials, Serko, that she had no right to tape the proceedings. By reason of the fact that the minutes were so long delayed, plaintiff again taped the proceedings of the public meeting of August 12; she used her own private tape recorder, described as being about two inches thick by four inches in width by about ten inches in length. This tape recorder is operated on batteries, and its microphone is an integral part of the tape recorder. Plaintiff on August 12 turned on the recorder and put it on the floor. The evidence is clear that at no time during the entire meeting did the tape recorder disturb anyone. It made no noise, it did not obstruct
vision, it did not cause any disturbance. As a matter of fact, the testimony showed that no one knew plaintiff was recording the proceedings until after the meeting was over. At the completion of the public meeting one of the councilmen, Kaiser, became aware that the meeting had been taped by plaintiff, and he reported this to Councilman Keegan. A conference then took place between the councilmen and the municipal attorney, the result of which was an order issued by the councilman to the plaintiff to surrender the tape or she could not leave the meeting hall. Plaintiff, rather than cause any further trouble surrendered the tape under protest and received a receipt for the same.
The testimony shows that at no time had the municipality adopted any ordinance or resolution which in any way prohibited the taping of a public meeting. It was stipulated in open court that defendant had and would permit the taking of notes, including the taking of verbatim shorthand notes.
Plaintiff further testified that the "Alert Citizens of North was to provide an accurate record for discussion by the members of the "Alert Citizens of North Arlington" at their meeting. Plaintiff explained that there were members of this group who for various reasons could not attend the municipal meetings personally.
Plaintiff further testified that the "Alert Citizens of North Arlington" were not politically aligned as Democrats or Republicans ...