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Public Service Electric and Gas Co. v. City of Camden

Decided: May 5, 1937.

PUBLIC SERVICE ELECTRIC AND GAS COMPANY, PROSECUTOR,
v.
CITY OF CAMDEN ET AL., DEFENDANTS



On certiorari.

For the prosecutor, William H. Speer.

For the defendants, E. G. C. Bleakly.

Before Justices Trenchard, Heher and Perskie.

Heher

The opinion of the court was delivered by

HEHER, J. In the exercise of the authority bestowed by article XXXIII of chapter 152 of the laws of 1917 (Pamph. L., pp. 319, 442), the board of commissioners of the city of Camden, at a meeting held on October 3d, 1935, adopted, on its own initiative, a resolution providing for the submission to popular vote at the ensuing general election of the question of whether the defendant municipality should construct "a municipal electric light, heat and power plant for the purpose of supplying light, heat and power for the public and private uses of such municipality and its inhabitants," to be erected upon lands within its corporate limits, at "the approximate cost of (but not to exceed) * * * $10,000,000."

Thereupon the prosecutor sued out this certiorari. The allocatur was so conditioned as not to interfere with the submission of the proposal to the municipal electorate, as in the resolution provided. The referendum was had accordingly, and the question was resolved in the affirmative. A previous submission -- with like result -- of the same general proposition, pursuant to a petition filed by voters of the municipality under section 3 of article XXXIII of the act of 1917, supra, was set aside by this court upon the ground that the petition was not signed by the requisite number of voters, qualified by registration as well as otherwise, and the subsequent proceedings were therefore not supported by a basic statutory requirement. Public Service Electric and Gas Co. v. City of Camden, 13 N.J. Mis. R. 693.

The prosecutor now urges that, for certain basic and procedural reasons, the instant resolution is "null and void," and that it and the ensuing referendum should therefore be vacated.

First: Certiorari is plainly an appropriate remedy at this stage of the proceedings. State, Hoxsey v. City of Paterson, 39 N.J.L. 489; State, Danforth v. City of Paterson, 34 Id. 163; State, Gregory v. Jersey City, 34 Id. 390.

Second: It is said that the cited article of the statute confers "powers * * * upon municipalities in their proprietary or private character, as distinguished from their governmental

or public character," and that this purpose is not expressed in the title of the act, in compliance with the mandate of article IV, section 7, paragraph 4, of the state constitution, providing that "every law shall embrace but one object, and that shall be expressed in the title."

We do not share the doubt on this point voiced obiter by Mr. Justice Bergen in the case of Board of Trade of Newark v. Newark, 97 N.J.L. 52; affirmed, 98 Id. 555. We deem the provision to be free of this asserted constitutional vice.

The statute is entitled "An act concerning municipalities." It is popularly known by the descriptive term "Home Rule Act;" and its general title is plainly embracive of the subject matter of article XXXIII. The inquiry is whether it is also expressive of its object. We think it is.

The title of a statute gives expression to its object, in the constitutional sense, "if it contain a mention of the subjectmatter generally, together with a succinct indication of the legislation respecting it." Mortland v. Christian, 52 N.J.L. 521, 537. The "object" of a law is not to be confused with its "product." It is not requisite that the title be an abstract or synopsis of the contents of the statute. Quigley v. Lehigh Valley Railroad Co., 80 Id. 486, 491; Boniewsky v. Polish Home of Lodi, 103 Id. 323; Stagway v. Riker, 84 Id. 201; Gottuso v. Baker, 80 Id. 520; Rader v. Union Township, 39 Id. 509; Fernetti v. West Jersey and Seashore Railroad Co., 87 Id. 268. The title is a label, not an index. Moore v. Burdett, 62 Id. 163. In that case, Mr. Justice Garrison aptly said: "Every law is an exhibition of legislative activity directed to a particular end. This purposive direction implies the kind of activity put forth and the choice of the field for its display, but not the particulars of the purpose or the means selected for its accomplishment. The former is the object of the law, the latter is ...


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