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Lucky Calendar Co. v. Cohen

Decided: March 4, 1955.


Lloyd, J.s.c.


The complaint herein was filed by plaintiff against the defendant, the Prosecutor of Pleas of Camden County, New Jersey, to seek a declaratory judgment under N.J.S. 2 A:16-50 et seq. that its sales promotional program which is entitled "Lucky Calendar" is lawful and not in violation of the Lottery Act (N.J.S. 2 A:121-1 et seq.) and the Raffles Licensing Law (N.J.S.A. 5:8-50 et seq.), or any criminal statutes of this State. The defendant in his answer denies that plaintiff's "Lucky Calendar" activity and operation is a lawful and legal sales promotion and denies that the said "Lucky Calendar" is not a lottery or a violation of the Raffles Licensing Law. The matter has been submitted to the court by the plaintiff and the defendant on countermotions for summary judgment on the pleadings and stipulation in lieu of testimony.

There is no dispute as to the facts. It is stipulated that plaintiff is a foreign corporation licensed to do business in New Jersey. Plaintiff sponsors and sells its "Lucky Calendar" promotional program, a copy of which was attached to the complaint, and which was described in detail in the stipulation filed herein. It has been and is operating the

"Lucky Calendar" program in other states where its legality has not been questioned. Plaintiff has a contract with American Stores Company which operates approximately 278 supermarkets in New Jersey, under the trade name "Acme Super Markets," to operate the "Lucky Calendar" program in said supermarkets. Several of these Acme supermarkets are located in Camden County.

The defendant, Prosecutor of the Pleas of Camden County, has informed the plaintiff that the "Lucky Calendar" promotional program is of doubtful legality and appears to have the characteristics and elements of a lottery in violation of the lottery statutes N.J.S. 2 A:121-1 et seq. and the gaming laws, and threatens that if plaintiff operates said advertising program in Camden County, plaintiff may subject itself and its customer American Stores Company to arrest and criminal prosecution.

The "Lucky Calendar" program consists of saturation mailing of a calendar to householders in a market area. The calendar is distributed free and none are sold or distributed in the Acme supermarkets. No one can request a calendar. The facts are undisputed that no one pays anything or does anything to receive a calendar. The calendar has several coupons which can be detached and used for the purchase of enumerated articles at reduced prices. This feature of the calendar is not questioned in this suit.

The calendar has another coupon which the householder may, if she desires to participate in a free drawing for articles mentioned on the calendar, complete by filling in her name, address and telephone number and arrange to have the coupon deposited in the contest prize box located outside the checkout line in an Acme supermarket. No one is required to go into the shopping area to deposit the prize coupon, and anyone may deposit the same for the householder. No purchase is required to participate in the drawing. The winner is drawn by lot from the prize contest box. The winner is notified by mail or telephone and does not have to be present at the drawing and the prize is delivered to the winner without cost. The participant pays nothing, buys nothing

and does nothing except fill in the coupon as aforesaid with the name, address and telephone number and arrange to have it deposited in the contest prize box.

The first question presented is whether an actual controversy exists that is ripe for judicial interpretation. The Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act cannot be used to decide or declare rights or status of parties upon a state of facts which are future, contingent and uncertain. The act is not to be used to obtain advisory opinions. Tanner v. Boynton Lumber Co. , 98 N.J. Eq. 85 (Ch. 1925).

However, in determining the question of jurisdiction, the statute itself provides it is remedial and shall be liberally construed and administered. N.J.S. 2 A:16-51. The courts have recognized the legislative intent and have liberally construed and administered the statute to carry out its declared purpose. New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. Parsons , 3 N.J. 235, 239 (1949); New Jersey Bankers Association v. Van Riper , 1 N.J. 193 (1948).

Plaintiff has been and is presently engaged in the business of sponsoring the "Lucky Calendar" program in several states. It has a contract to operate the identical program in New Jersey for the Acme supermarkets. Plaintiff is a "going business," and has been told by the defendant that its operations have the characteristics or elements of a lottery, and if it operates both plaintiff and its customer, American Stores Company, may be subject to arrest and criminal prosecution. Both of these companies are reputable business enterprises. They both seek to continue and expand their business operations. To run the risk of arrest and criminal prosecution would cause them immediate and irreparable injury. The publicity accompanying an arrest would never be undone by a subsequent dismissal of the ...

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