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Christie’s Halloween Order and the Sphere of Halloween Justice

James Grimmelmann just noted New Jersey Executive Order 105 (Oct. 31, 2012):

NOW, THEREFORE, I, CHRIS CHRISTIE, Governor of the State of New Jersey, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and by the Statutes of this State, do hereby ORDER and DIRECT:

1. Celebrations of Halloween scheduled for October 31, 2012 in all parts of New Jersey shall be held on Monday, November 5, 2012.

And wonders if this is a law in the formal sense.

My comment:

Was wondering about this yesterday morning too. Seems to me like the state overstepping the bounds of its authority in some ways. Re Oct 31, yes, you can say “no Halloween” (meaning “no mass wandering of kids on the street at night”) as the state — that’s a public safety issue potentially. (Not saying it really is in all cases, but as a matter of bright line rules and executive authority, okay — not so different from saying there’s a curfew and/or ordering an evacuation of shore zones.)

But rescheduling a non-state holiday for a new date? No, that’s just weird — Governor Christie doesn’t get to reschedule Halloween. However, like you said, to the extent Nov 5 is the suggested new date, that solves coordination problems, so maybe it’s not all bad for Christie to suggest everyone go with next Monday.

Does anyone disagree with the bolded part?  Does anyone think Governor Christie actually has the authority to say “celebrations of Halloween… shall be held on Monday, November 5”?  It strikes me as a First Amendment violation at the least, but it’s certainly not a church/state question despite the religious origins of the holiday.  And it isn’t about a specific organization’s internal rules either.  It’s more of a “forced speech” issue, I would think, as well as an abridgement of the freedom to celebrate Halloween on, say, today.

For what it’s worth, I’ve talked to several people who have violated this order and similar municipal orders in the post-Sandy Northeast.  It’s fascinating to hear these folks explain why they and their community defied the various mandates to reschedule Halloween.  Interesting rule of law stuff, to be sure.

Update: Apparently, even local government in New Jersey doesn’t feel any obligation to fall in line:

On Wednesday, the Mercer County municipalities of Trenton, Hopewell Borough, Hopewell Township and Pennington affirmed they will celebrate Halloween on Saturday, Nov. 3, not Nov. 5 as Christie ordered.

Why: Today is more of a leisure day and with daylight savings, it’ll be dark early on Monday.

2 thoughts on “Christie’s Halloween Order and the Sphere of Halloween Justice”

  1. Since you can dress up in a nice shirt and tie and go knock on people’s doors and ask them to convert any time you want, surely you can dress up in a costume and ask them for candy any time you want. Of course, you’re not likely to get any unless everyone is on the same page. So, I agree — not law, but coordination.

  2. My town, a Pittsburgh suburb, “rescheduled” Halloween not by an official ordinance but by an announcement published on its website and through other media channels. No one trick-or-treated on Oct. 31; everyone trick-or-treated on the prescribed date – Nov. 3. The coordination function of law is clearly achievable under some circumstances even in the absence of a claim to formal authority, and even in the absence of a formal claim of power.

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