New Jersey Supreme Court decision (December 3, 2014).
This case involved a co-op common interest community (residents by shares of the building) governed by a board of directors. The governing documents, consisting of bylaws and rules, bar the placement of items like newsletters under residents’ doors. The residents are permitted to distribute materials at two annual board meetings that shareholders attend and they can also send documents to fellow shareholders by regular mail, at a cost of more than $200 per mailing. In addition, residents may seek the Board’s approval to place signs or notices in the building, but there are no written guidelines to channel the Board’s discretion. A resident who happened to be a critic of the building’s Board of Directors, was interested in running for a Board seat and asked the Board if he could distribute campaign materials in the building. That request was denied and the resident brought suit to compel the board to allow him to distribute his campaign materials to other residents.
In reversing a lower court ruling in favor of the association, the Appellate Division held that the House Rule in question was an unreasonable restriction that violates the free speech guarantee in New Jersey’s Constitution. The important right of residents to speak about the governance of their community, which presents a minimal intrusion when a leaflet is placed under a neighbor’s apartment door, outweighs the Board’s concerns about the use of the building. The State Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division.
See case decision: Dublirer_v._2000_Linwood_Ave