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Kraibuehler v. Civil Service Commission

Decided: March 7, 1946.

WILLIAM A. KRAIBUEHLER, JR., ET AL., PROSECUTORS,
v.
CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, CITY OF NEWARK, ETC., ET AL., RESPONDENTS



On writ of certiorari.

For the prosecutors, Eisenberg & Spicer (Jerome C. Eisenberg).

For Civil Service Commission, Walter D. Van Riper, Attorney-General, and William K. Miller, Assistant Deputy Attorney-General.

For City of Newark and John A. Brady, Director, Thomas M. Kane and Thomas L. Parsonnet.

Before Justices Case, Bodine and Perskie.

Case

The opinion of the court was delivered by

CASE, J. Prosecutors were employed in varying capacities in the Emergency Relief Division, known also as the Division of Public Welfare, within the Department of Public Affairs of the City of Newark. It is conceded that the work in that division had diminished to the point where a decrease in the number of workers was justified for reasons of economy and that the city had the right to lay off its employees for reasons of economy.

On October 26th, 1943, the director of the Department of Public Affairs gave notice that a retrenchment in the expenses of the division was imperative and that prosecutors, being the employees with the least seniority rights, would, for reasons of economy, be placed on leave of absence. The effective date of the layoffs was November 15th, 1943. On November 30th, 1943, prosecutors filed their petition with the Civil Service Commission which soon thereafter, and without waiting for the hearings, determined that four of the prosecutors, Kraibuehler, Taylor, Andersen and Cauco, who had held the rank of junior supervisors, were entitled, instead of being laid off, to be demoted to the position of family visitors -- a lower rank -- and that such demotions should be made as of November 15th, 1943. Later there was a full decision. The writ brings up the commission's disposition of the matter.

One of the questions which prosecutors now seek to raise is that the Civil Service Commission erred in not directing that the salaries of those prosecutors, as family visitors, be paid from November 15th, 1943, to January 3d, 1944. We do not discover that the question of that salary was made an issue before the commission. The hearings before the commission were in February, March and April, 1944. Nothing in the record thereof pertinent to such an issue is brought to our attention. The order was definite in making the later employment begin when the earlier ended, that is to say, on November 15th, and presumably the salary scale was not in doubt. This is not properly an action for the recovery of salary.

Prosecutors contend that their layoffs were illegal because not made on a city wide basis. The argument is that before

any of the prosecutors could be laid off or reduced in rank in the process of adjusting the Division of Emergency Relief to a reduced personnel a survey had to be made of all other positions in the city service to the end that if any position which one of the prosecutors was qualified to fill was occupied by an employee junior in point of service the latter should be displaced to make room for the prosecutor. Such a contention, if sound, would mean that the displaced employee would be entitled to a like city wide search in his interest and so on down the line. It is inevitable that much confusion, turmoil and dispute would be incident to such a practice in a large city with several departments under wholly distinct management, with many hundreds of employees in numerous classes of employment and with varying resemblances or differences in the characteristics of the work. The city and the Civil Service Commission contend that such a practice is not feasible and is not within the purview of the statute; and we agree.

It is settled that positions within the civil service may be abolished and that employees under civil service may be separated from their positions for reasons of economy. Santucci v. Paterson, 113 N.J.L. 192; Byrnes v. Boulevard Commissioners of Hudson ...


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