ratsThe New Jersey Supreme Court, which earlier this year ruled that striking nurses qualify for unemployment benefits, yesterday came out in favor of free speech rights–for rats!

Actually, for one rat–an inflatable, 10-foot-high rat bandied about by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Lawrence Township in 2005. The rat was being used outside a Dunkin’ Donuts to protest low wages being paid by an out-of-state contractor when, lo and behold, local authorities swooped in and fined the union for breaking a law against using banners or inflatables at events other than grand openings.

The union paid $100 in fines and $33 in court costs.

Flush with money, however, the union struck back in favor of its rat, and the issue went to the state’s highest court on Thursday, Feb. 5. At issue was the rat’s protection under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.

The Supreme Court, overturning an appeals court decision, ruled that the township couldn’t have it both ways–banning inflatables at most events while allowing them just at grand openings.

Local officials vowed to do “some tweaking” of the law “immediately.”