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Walsh v. Department of Civil Service

Decided: September 3, 1954.

HAROLD W. WALSH, APPELLANT,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CIVIL SERVICE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND COUNTY OF HUDSON, RESPONDENTS



Eastwood, Freund and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.A.D.

Francis

[32 NJSuper Page 41] The sole issue presented by this appeal is whether the Chief Probation Officer of Hudson County is

in the classified or unclassified service under the Civil Service Act, R.S. 11:4-1, et seq.

The record discloses that since 1929 appellant had been a court crier in the Common Pleas Court and the County Court of Hudson County. On May 1, 1950 the chief probation officer retired and on May 10, 1950 Walsh was appointed to succeed him by an order of the four county judges which recited that the appointment was made "By virtue of the power vested in this Court by Chapter 156 of the Laws of 1929, and in accordance with the rules and regulations of the New Jersey State Civil Service Commission."

The Civil Service Commission refused to approve the selection, saying that chief probation officer is a career position in the competitive division of the classified civil service and that a promotion examination, which would be open to employees in the next lower grade or grades of the probation office, was a prerequisite to the appointment.

Subsequently, a formal hearing was held by the Commission at which testimony was taken respecting the duties of the chief probation officer and a number of exhibits relating thereto were received. However, the view originally taken was adhered to and since the result was to disqualify Walsh, this appeal followed.

The statute controlling the appointment as it existed at the time in question provided:

"The judge or judges of the county court in each county, or a majority of them, acting jointly, may appoint a chief probation officer, and, on application of the chief probation officer, such men and women probation officers as may be necessary. All probation officers appointed subsequent to April 22, 1929, who are to receive salaries shall be appointed in accordance with the rules and regulations of the civil service commission. * * *

Chief probation officers and probation officers in office April 22, 1929, shall continue to serve in their respective counties under the provisions of this chapter." (Italics ours.) N.J.S. 2 A:168-5; L. 1929, c. 156, § 5.

Appellant contends that since the italicized sentence does not specifically include chief probation officers, the Legislature

intended to exclude them and to limit the benefits of civil service to probation officers alone.

In the study of a problem such as this it must be kept in mind that the object of the Civil Service Act is to secure efficient public service in all of the various departments of state, county and municipal government. One of the means prescribed for accomplishing that objective is the insulation of the appointment of persons to offices or positions in the classified service against considerations of politics, personal favoritism or partisanship in any form. And in order to effectuate the broad, salutary public policy proclaimed by the Legislature, the widest possible range consistent with a fair and reasonable interpretation of the language employed should be given to the act. State Dept. of Civil Service v. Clark , 15 N.J. 334 (1954).

The insulation of such employees stems from Art. VII, § I, par. 2, of the Constitution of 1947 which provides that

"* * * appointments and promotions in the civil service * * * shall be made according to merit and fitness to be ascertained, as far as practicable, by examination, which, as far as practicable, shall be competitive; * * *."

This language appears almost verbatim in the Civil Service Act and regulates appointments and promotions in the State and county ...


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