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De Camp v. Harrison

Decided: September 1, 1931.

E. OSCAR DE CAMP, RELATOR,
v.
E. MORTIMER HARRISON, DEFENDANT



On quo warranto.

For the relator, Riker & Riker (Theodore McC. Marsh, of counsel).

For the defendant, Spaulding Frazer.

Before Gummere, Chief Justice, and Justices Trenchard and Lloyd.

Trenchard

The opinion of the court was delivered by

TRENCHARD, J. The question here presented arises on a demurrer to an information in the nature of a quo warranto. That question is whether under chapter 15 of laws of 1905 (Pamph. L., p. 33) the term of office of the deputy register of deeds and mortgages of the county of Essex is fixed by law and limited to that of the register appointing him, or whether it is an office of so indefinite a term as to be protected by (1) the Civil Service act (3 Comp. Stat., p. 3795), or (2) by the Tenure of Office act for Exempt Firemen, chapter 212, laws of 1911, or (3) by chapter 196 of the laws of 1928, relating to first assistants or deputies appointed by county clerks, registers and surrogates.

We believe it to be conceded that except as the provisions of one or more of these three acts alter the status of the

deputy register as originally created under the act of 1905, the appointment of the defendant, Harrison, by the present register of Essex county, is valid.

The pleadings disclose that the relator, De Camp, held the position by appointment of the previous register. When George Stickel took office as register of Essex county in November, 1930, he immediately appointed the defendant, Harrison, as deputy register, and the latter has since filled the office.

We think that by chapter 15 of the laws of 1905 the term of office of the deputy register is fixed by law and is limited by the term of the register appointing him.

The relevant words of section 1 of the act are as follows: "Any register of deeds and mortgages * * * may, in his discretion, from time to time, select and appoint some competent person as deputy register * * *, which deputy shall hold his office during the pleasure of the register * * * for the time being."

Indefinite, then, though the term of the deputy register may be within the term of his superior, it is definitely limited as to its maximum extent by the term of the register "for the time being." These words are comparable in meaning to those used in the act relating to deputy county clerks (Comp. Stat., p. 1523, P29), wherein it is provided that the deputy clerk shall hold office during the pleasure of the clerk, "but no longer than the term for which said clerk shall be elected." In both instances while minimum terms of service are not provided, a maximum beyond which the term cannot extend is definitely fixed. This constitutes a term fixed by law. Burgan v. Civil Service Commission, 84 N.J.L. 219. The cases relied upon by the relator, namely Townsend v. Boughner, 55 Id. 380, and Wilson v. District Court, 93 Id. 103, are clearly distinguishable. ...


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