Judge rules that New Jersey woman can display profane anti-Biden signs

The New Jersey Superior Court dropped charges against a woman who put profanity-laced signs in her front yard denouncing President Joe Biden. The woman had received complaints from neighbors who found the signs obscene. She was summoned to local court, where a judge gave her a week to take down the signs or face a daily fine. She appealed the decision  to the New Jersey Superior Court and prevailed. 

Key Player

Andrea Dick, 54, lives in Roselle Park, New Jersey, a predominantly liberal borough about 20 miles from New York City. According to The New York Times, she is a “die-hard” supporter of Donald Trump who insists — despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — that he won reelection to the presidency in 2020. 

Further Details

On Memorial Day of 2021, Dick put up signs outside her home that read, “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Trump,” “Joe Biden Sucks,” “Yes, I’m a Trump Girl, Get Over It,” “Socialism Sucks, Biden Blows,” and most notably, “Fuck Biden.” 

According to The Times, local residents became upset about the language, complaining that the house would be seen by passing children. “The real problem is, from a neighbor perspective, is it’s a block away from an elementary school,” Roselle Park mayor Joseph Signorello told NJ.com. “It’s in a high visibility area for children. Most of the ire was drawn from a lot of local parents.”

Shortly after receiving numerous complaints from his constituents, the mayor called on Dick to remove the signs, citing a local ordinance that prohibits citizens from displaying “obscene” material. The ordinance defines “obscene” as material that “lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value” or depicts sexual conduct in an offensive way, according to NJ.com.

The Times reported that Dick’s neighborhood voted overwhelmingly for Biden in 2020. Despite that, Signorello, a Democrat, insisted, “This is not about politics in any way, it’s about decency.” He told The Times the town would have invoked the same ordinance for anti-Trump language.

According to a June 2, 2021, interview with NJ.com, Dick did not remove the signs after a warning from Signorello. “I’m not taking them down. I refuse to take them down,” she said. “Today I got a phone call from code enforcement. … I said nothing against you, but I’m not taking them down. I said I have a right, freedom of speech, and I’m leaving them up there.”

Dick  was subsequently summoned to appear in Roselle Park municipal court. On July 15, 2021, Judge Gary Bundy ruled that her signs violated the borough’s obscenity ordinance, and that she must remove three of them or her mother, who owns the home, would face a fine of $250 per day beginning on July 22, according to NJ.com

“There are alternative methods for the defendant to express her pleasure or displeasure with certain political figures in the United States. … Freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right,” Bundy wrote in his ruling. “The case is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language. This ordinance does not restrict political speech.” 

With the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Dick appealed the case to the New Jersey Superior Court. On July 22, 2021, the ACLU filed documents to block Bundy’s order until after Dick’s appeal was decided, Law & Crime wrote.

“All New Jerseyans have the right to express themselves freely under the First Amendment. Roselle Park’s ordinance against posting obscene signs should never have been applied to political signs,” ACLU New Jersey’s legal director told NJ.com. “We will vigorously defend our clients’ rights to criticize politicians — even using coarse language — expression that sits at the core of the First Amendment.”

At the center of the ACLU’s argument was a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled that a man’s declaring “Fuck the draft” was a protected activity under the First Amendment.   


New Jersey Superior Court throws out case against Dick

On July 27, 2021,  an appellate court judge dismissed the charges against Dick and her mother. 

Roselle Park’s attorney wrote that while he supported the municipal judge’s original ruling, he felt that “the continued attention garnered by the inappropriate display and the escalating costs to the taxpayers of continuing to litigate the matter causes far greater harm to the borough, as a whole, than good.”

In response to the decision, the mayor of Roselle Park said to New Jersey 101.5, “You can’t legislate being a good neighbor, unfortunately. I hope, personally, she takes down the indecent signs because it’s the right thing to do.”

Dick told New Jersey 101.5 that she may pursue a lawsuit against Roselle Park for putting her through the ordeal.