United States District Court, D. New Jersey
CHRISTOPHER QUICK, et. al., Plaintiff,
TOWNSHIP OF BERNARDS, et. al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
H. GOODMAN United States Magistrate Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court by motion (the
“Motion”) brought by the Township of Bernards,
Township of Bernards Township Committee, and Township of
Bernards Planning Board (collectively, “Movants”
or “Township Defendants”) for a protective order
to limit the scope of depositions under the deliberative
process privilege. Movants filed a brief (“Moving
Brief”) in support of their motion. [Docket Entry No.
48]. Christopher Quick and Loretta Quick
(“Plaintiffs”) have opposed the Motion and filed
a Brief in Opposition (“Opposition”) on March 6,
2019. [Docket Entry No. 49]. On March 11, 2019, the Movants
filed a Reply Brief in Support of the Motion
(“Reply”). [Docket Entry No. 50].
Court has considered the Motion on the submissions without
oral argument, pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure and Rule 78.1 of the Local Civil Rules. For
the reasons set forth below, the Motion is DENIED WITHOUT
purposes of this Order, the Court presumes the parties'
familiarity with the procedural background of the case and
therefore limits discussion to that necessary for an
understanding of the issues.
case is the byproduct of previous litigation involving the
approval of an application submitted by the Islamic Society
of Basking Ridge (“ISBR”) for construction of a
mosque in the Township. Complaint ¶ 21 [Docket Entry No.
1]. After thirty-nine public hearings where citizens were
able to comment, the Township Defendants denied ISBR's
application. Id. ¶¶ 22-24. On March 10,
2016, ISBR and Mohammed Ali Chaudry instituted litigation
against the Township Defendants, The Islamic Society of
Basking Ridge and Mohammad Ali Chaudry v. Township of
Bernards, et al, No. 3:16-cv-01369 (“ISBR
Litigation”), challenging the denial. Id.
¶¶ 1, 25. On May 23, 2017, the parties in the ISBR
Litigation entered into a Settlement Agreement. Id.
¶ 26. On May 30, 2017, this Court entered an order
“that incorporated the terms of the Settlement
Agreement and that made the Settlement Agreement fully
enforceable as an order of the Court”
(“Settlement Agreement and Order”). Id.
¶ 27. Pursuant to the Settlement Agreement and Order,
ISBR agreed to submit a Site Plan and the Planning Board was
required to hold a public hearing to approve the Site Plan
(“Special Meeting”). Id. ¶ 28-30.
Ten days before the Special Meeting, ISBR was required to
send notice to Interested Parties, defined as any owner
“of real property within 200 feet in all directions of
the proposed mosque site.” Id. ¶ 34.
are both Interested Parties. Id. ¶¶ 35-36.
Plaintiffs filed their Original Complaint on July 31, 2017,
requesting entry of a preliminary injunction to enjoin the
Special Meeting. Id. ¶¶ 41-42. Plaintiffs
allege that the terms of the Settlement Agreement and Order
barred them from “making any commentary regarding Islam
or Muslim” at the Special Meeting.” Id.
¶¶ 11-12. On August 8, 2017, this Court held a
hearing on Plaintiffs' preliminary injunction application
and subsequently denied the request; the Special Meeting was
then held as scheduled. Memorandum Opinion at 13 [Docket
Entry No. 28]. After the denial, Plaintiffs appealed this
Court's decision to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals
where the appeal was dismissed as moot. [Docket Entry No.
August 22, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint
bringing claims against Movants pursuant to the First and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Amended Complaint ¶ 1 [Docket
Entry No. 17]. Plaintiffs allege that the Settlement
Agreement is unconstitutional because it: (i)
“suppresses speech based on its content and
viewpoint;” (ii) “constitutes a prior restraint
on protected speech;” (iii) “deprives Plaintiffs
of procedural due process;” (iv) “violates the
First Amendment's Establishment Clause by preferring
Islam over other religions;” and (v) “violates
the First Amendment's Petition Clause.”
Id. Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that although
Interested Parties could “provide sworn comments and
cross-examine witnesses regarding the Site Plan, ” the
Settlement Agreement and Order prohibited “commentary
regarding Islam or Muslims.” Id. ¶¶
38-39. Because of this restriction, Plaintiffs argue that
Movants unconstitutionally “censored Plaintiffs'
speech due to its content and viewpoints and thereby placed
unconstitutional restrictions on Plaintiffs' First
Amendment freedoms.” Id. ¶ 43.
Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint, Movants filed a
Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). [Docket Entry No. 24]. On April 30, 2018, this
Court denied the Motion to Dismiss, and an Initial Pretrial
Conference was held on August 22, 2018. [Docket Entry No.
28]. The parties then commenced discovery.
January 15, 2019, Plaintiffs transmitted an email to Movants
explaining the scope of testimony sought in upcoming
depositions. Moving Brief Ex. B, at 1-2. Plaintiffs
identified their intent to depose Movants on the following
(1) The circumstances surrounding the approval,
implementation, and enforcement of ‘Settlement
Agreement' entered into in another lawsuit, The
Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and Mohammed Ali Chaudry v.
Bernards et al., No. 3:16-cv-01369-MAS-LHG (D.N.J.); (2)
The procurement of a federal court order enforcing the
Settlement Agreement; and (3) The circumstances surrounding
the approval, implementation, and enforcement of the
provision of the Settlement Agreement prohibiting any
commentary regarding Islam or Muslims at a public hearing
that was specially set to consider the construction of a
mosque in Bernards Township, New Jersey.
Id. After receiving notice of the intended
depositions, Movants objected to testifying and the parties
were unable to reach an agreement on the scope of the