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City of Elizabeth and Henry Einhorn v. Windsor-Fifth Avenue Inc.

Decided: June 16, 1954.

CITY OF ELIZABETH AND HENRY EINHORN, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
WINDSOR-FIFTH AVENUE, INC., (TWO GUYS FROM HARRISON), ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS. CITY OF ELIZABETH AND ALBERT HERTZBERG, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS, V. WINDSOR-FIFTH AVENUE, INC., (TWO GUYS FROM HARRISON), ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Clapp, Smalley and Schettino. The opinion of the court was delivered by Clapp, S.j.a.d.

Clapp

The corporate defendant, known as Two Guys from Harrison, operating a chain of retail stores in New Jersey, including a store in Elizabeth, and perhaps three other defendants, employees of that store, were convicted in the Municipal Court of the City of Elizabeth of having violated an ordinance of that city. By the ordinance it is declared unlawful for any person to open or keep open, on Sunday and certain major holidays, a store wherein (there is no verb in this clause of the ordinance) the business of selling household electrical appliances. The County Court affirmed.

Defendants claim, first, the ordinance, insofar as it applies to Sunday, is discriminatory and therefore void. Indeed, as admitted on the argument, on the part of the city, it seems to be a "fair inference" that the ordinance was "pinpointed" against defendants' store in Elizabeth. The complaints initiating these proceedings were made in behalf of local competitors in the electrical appliance business.

There is no doubt as to the authority of a municipality to pass an ordinance for the prevention of business activity on Sunday, either under the power given it to deal with the matter of morality, N.J.S.A. 40:48-1, paragraph 6, or under the police power conferred by the Home Rule Act, N.J.S.A. 40:48-2, over the welfare of the municipality. See Fred v. Mayor and Council, Old Tappan Borough , 10 N.J. 515, 519 (1952); 83 C.J.S., Sunday , ยง 3, p. 802. There is no conflict here with N.J.S.A. 2 A:171-1 (Richman v. Newark , 122 N.J.L. 180 (Sup. Ct. 1939)), which, though it abrogated the trifling fine of $1.00, still in mandatory terms sets Sunday apart as a day of rest.

Is the ordinance discriminatory? It seems to be said that since all worldly activity is, in general, forbidden by the state Sunday law, one engaging in some such activity on Sunday has no redress under constitutional guarantees when a local ordinance, arbitrarily and with offensive discrimination, singles out that activity and imposes a substantial fine with respect to it; and it makes no difference, so the argument seems to go, whether the state law imposes a trifling penalty in addition to that fine or (as under the present law) no penalty at all. Sherman v. Paterson , 82 N.J.L. 345 (Sup. Ct. 1912); Schachter v. Hauenstein , 92 N.J.L. 104 (Sup. Ct. 1918); Mazzarelli v. City of Elizabeth , 11 N.J. Misc. 150 (Sup. Ct. 1933).

We do not get to that issue here. Where a defendant charged with the violation of an ordinance, asserts the ordinance is so unreasonable as to be void, he has the burden of proof on the matter; and, if he is to succeed, his proof must be clear and perhaps even demonstrate that the ordinance is palpably unreasonable. State v. Mundet Cork Corp. , 8 N.J. 359, 369, 370 (1952); cf. Whitney v. California , 274 U.S. 357, 369, 47 S. Ct. 641, 71 L. Ed. 1095 (1927), a criminal case putting upon the defendant the burden of showing that the statute, allegedly violated, was discriminatory.

The ordinance may here be reaching an evil where it is most felt; and, if so, it need not embrace all occupations

touched by the evil. Or the ordinance may be held reasonable upon some other basis. Amodio v. Board of Commissioners of W. New York , 133 N.J.L. 220, 226 (Sup. Ct. 1945); Elliott v. State , 29 Ariz. 389, 242 P. 340, 46 A.L.R. 290; City of Mt. Vernon v. Julian , 369 Ill. 447, 17 N.E. 2 d 52, 119 A.L.R. 752. But we need not consider these questions.

The defendants have not carried the heavy burden placed upon them. The record is nearly barren on the point. What other types of stores, if any, are open in Elizabeth on Sunday does not appear, except for a dubious reference in the testimony to an automobile accessory store. We do not know whether or not the defendant's store in Elizabeth is more obnoxious on Sundays and holidays than these other stores on those days. Nor do we know why the ordinance is designed apparently to close the store on Sundays and holidays because one of its activities (it deals in 4,600 items, apart from drugs and appliances) is the selling of household electrical appliances. These questions -- they are neither asked in the briefs, nor answered in the record -- give rise to suspicions, but they do not rebut the presumption of validity attaching to this ordinance. Cf. Richman v. Newark , 122 N.J.L. 180 (Sup. Ct. 1939), supra. The ordinance, so far as it deals with Sundays, has not been proven invalid, and defendants' first contention therefore falls.

The ordinance proscribes sales of electrical appliances, not only on Sundays but also on New Year's Day, Decoration Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and defendants claim, secondly, that it, insofar as it applies to holidays, is void. The ordinance would seem to be (we need not pass upon it) in contravention of N.J.S.A. 36:1-2. If so, it can hardly be said that it is saved by N.J.S.A. 40:52-1(g), authorizing the regulation of stores; section (g) does not seem to authorize a municipality to make exceptions to ...


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