For the prosecutors, Charles A. Rooney (John F. Lynch, Jr., of counsel).
For the defendants, Mark Townsend, Deputy Attorney-General.
Before Justices Donges, Heher and Colie.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
HEHER, J. Prosecutors challenge the validity of a resolution adopted by the Hudson County Board of Taxation on September 18th, 1945, providing that the individual prosecutor, Tumulty, "be granted a hearing before" the board on the ensuing September 22d, at the place therein designated, "with respect to his conduct before Part 2" of the board on the prior September 6th and 7th, and that, "pending such hearing and determination thereon," he "be * * * suspended from practice before" the board, "or any part thereof," and "denied the right to represent any litigants before" it, "or any part thereof." There was provision also for notice of the hearing; and notice was given accordingly. Certiorari was allowed to review the resolution on the day prior to the time thus fixed for the hearing. The allocatur directed that the writ operate as a supersedeas; and the parties were thereby granted leave to take depositions. Later, on defendants' motion, and after hearing, an order was entered by the court en banc precluding the taking of depositions upon the merits of the charges of misconduct, and confining the inquiry to the issue of the defendant board's power "to set down for hearing" and to determine "the charges of improper conduct" by the individual prosecutor, and to "suspend him from appearing or practicing" before the board pending the determination of the charges.
The action thus taken followed a report made by a member of the defendant board, sitting as a hearing commissioner, that during hearings held by him on the prior September 6th and 7th, the individual prosecutor, while acting as counsel for the City of Jersey City, "had made insulting remarks addressed to him" and "had refused to withdraw such insulting remarks or to apologize therefor as requested by him;" that he "had on several occasions persisted in talking to the exclusion of the hearing commissioner even after he had been ordered to cease," and "in general had been impertinent and disrespectful and had conducted himself in a manner unbecoming a member of the bar of this State," as a result of which the commissioner "was unable to continue his scheduled hearings
on September 7th, 1945, necessitating their adjournment indefinitely." Upon the coming in of this report, the board adopted a resolution suspending the individual prosecutor "from practice" before it, and denying him "the right to represent any litigants before" the board. This resolution was later rescinded; and then came the resolution under review. It was predicated upon a rule authorizing the board, "for cause," to "deny or suspend the right of any person to represent a party before it." This rule is defended as a proper exercise of the authority conferred by R.S. 54:3-14, providing that such bodies "may make all rules, regulations and orders not inconsistent with the rules, regulations and orders of the commissioner, and issue such directions as may be necessary to carry into effect the provision of this Title."
This is not a contempt proceeding. It is conceded that the defendant body is not clothed with the power to punish for contempt, either inherent, as an auxiliary to the due performance of its function, or statutory.
Thus, the issue posed is whether the defendant tribunal is invested with power to debar an attorney-at-law from the exercise of his professional representative office in that forum. We are clear that it is not.
The appellate function of the county boards of taxation is judicial in character; and attorneys and counsellors-at-law who represent parties to proceedings before such tribunals, in the pursuit of the remedies within their cognizance, thereby exercise the calling or profession of the law, for which they have been commissioned by the Governor on the recommendation of the Supreme Court. Such boards are termed quasi -judicial bodies; but the essential difference between a determination by a special tribunal and the adjudication of a court of general jurisdiction consists in the presumption of jurisdiction in the latter forum. Riddle Co. v. New Auditorium Pier Co., 78 N.J.L. 520. See, also, Freeholders of Ocean v. Township of Lacey, 42 Id. 536. And, by the ...