Judge blocks New Jersey's bid to bolt waterfront commission

June 04, 2018 - 2:17 pm

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge has temporarily blocked New Jersey from withdrawing from the bistate commission that investigates criminal activity at New York and New Jersey ports, ruling Gov. Chris Christie overstepped his authority when he signed a bill into law in January.

The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor sued after Christie signed the law, arguing that New Jersey's withdrawal would essentially dissolve the commission, which was formed by compact between the two states in the 1950s to investigate mob infiltration of unions of the kind depicted in the 1954 Marlon Brando movie "On The Waterfront."

"Allowing one state to dictate the manner and terms of the Commission's dissolution, and the subsequent distribution of the agency's assets, runs counter to the requirement that any change to the Compact occur through concurring legislation," U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton wrote Friday in granting a preliminary injunction.

New Jersey had argued in court filings that organized crime has largely been driven out of the ports and that New Jersey's state police would be ably suited to conduct any investigations into criminal activity there.

In Friday's ruling, Wigenton noted that in 2014 numerous longshoremen's union officials pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy and in 2017, 19 organized crime members were indicted in a separate investigation.

The commission also has the power to enforce anti-discriminatory hiring practices at the ports.